Saying 'I'm sorry' is only the first step - Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

Saying 'I'm sorry' is only the first step

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Every week someone in the news is apologizing to us for something they did. Usually a sad face or tears are present, but is a shaken voice, and well thought, "I'm sorry" enough to make us feel forgiving of what happened?

Politicians who were caught cheating, athletes caught with women and booze, celebrities who were driving drunk and reckless putting themselves and others in harm's way. Does the act of saying, "I'm sorry" from these people in powerful positions help us feel less offended and more forgiving?

An apology, in order to be part of the healing process, must feel heartfelt and sincere. If it is said with an insincere tone or perfunctory stance, then it is almost humiliating to hear the words and see their face voicing the words. Much of the healing power that comes with the words is dependent upon the relationship one has with the apologizer. If I'm sorry becomes something the person continually says, but doesn't change their behavior, the sense of hurt and betrayal can become intensified each time "I'm sorry" is heard. In the public world, I'm sorry is spoken to restore credibility, and in the private world, it is spoken to seek forgiveness or healing, which is expecting a lot from two small words.

Teaching our children to say, "I'm sorry" when they offend another is important because it is the first step in building empathy. This is a lesson many bullies don't get, and hence part of bully recovery is teaching empathy. A true apology though is said while looking in the eyes of the person you hurt and feeling their pain before saying, "I'm sorry." This process can also be done by writing a letter, but an apology is only as sincere as the person who says it can feel the pain of another.

Our world is becoming more and more diverse with our ability to communicate every moment with different cultures, religions, and beliefs. Saying a sincere "I'm sorry" when you offend someone, becomes more and more important and difficult when attempting to restore credibility or forgiveness. Below are suggestions for helping your apology to be interpreted as sincere.

1. Apologize and take responsibility for your actions rather than make an excuse or deny that you've made a mistake. Remember, your apology is the first step to healing the hurt…they alone are not enough.

2. Say an apology because you feel it, not because you are forced into one. Forcing one into saying "I'm sorry" feels insincere and worsens the relationship.

3. If it's someone you love that you hurt, focus on taking full responsibility for your actions and focus on a way to make the future look brighter. For example, "I didn't mean to hurt you and promise not to hurt you in this way again." Go on to say something such as you are deleting this person from your email files, Facebook and Twitter, and then tell your loved one you promise to let them know if this person tries to contact you. This shows your loved one you are sorry, and you are going to change your actions to help them as a couple in the future.

4. With children, teaching them young to say I am sorry when they hurt someone is important. Teaching them to write an apology as well as saying it will help them understand how their words and actions can hurt and heal. Having children brainstorm ideas about how they could have avoided hurting their friends works well for children as they grow older.

Saying I'm sorry is important, but it isn't enough. Following the apology there must be a plan for what you will do in the future to right your wrong. This plan must be said with sincerity and follow through or it becomes merely words, and harms more than it helps. The reason we often don't believe those who apologize is because they are using the apology as a means to heal the hurt and move on. Moving on doesn't happen unless the apology is followed with a plan to insure the mistake will not be made again.

– Mary Jo Rapini

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