A good apology simply and specifically states both the wrong committed and the hurt caused. It goes something like, “I know I (fill in the blank with behavior) which caused you (fill in the hurt). I’m sorry.” Straightforward; simple; unencumbered.
When our daughter comes to us, discouraged because a friend is upset with her choice to forego prearranged plans with one friend to hang with some others, we can guide her into a healthy way to make amends and hopefully keep the friendship. She might frame the apology, “I know I bagged our trip to the ball game for a day out with other friends which caused you to feel unwanted and left out. I’m sorry.” Admitting the wrong and acknowledging the hurt opens the door for her friend to be honest about where things stand now. In that conversation it might be possible for daughter to also share that she went with those friends because it was one’s birthday, and she had simply forgotten the double scheduling. When she tried to call to straighten it out, she couldn’t get through.
Mitigating circumstances which, in their proper timing help clarify the situation, but which put in the apology just begin to sound like an excuse — a diminishing both of true responsibility and true remorse. Helping our child get this right teaches her how to mend the inevitable rifts in friendships and keep them healthy.
Never spoil a good apology with an excuse. Words to live by.
Tess Worrell is the mother of eight and teaches parenting and marriage. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.