I’m Sorry: How to Say it and Mean it


“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” ~ James 5:16

The 1970 film “Love Story” made famous the catchphrase “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” In the 40+ years since, it’s an adage that has been repeatedly worked into song and conversation. It’s also been refuted countless times, because of course, love means no such thing. Love does require the respect and compassion that comes with an apology. In addition, as James 5:16 tells us, recognizing where we’ve erred, owning it and seeking forgiveness from our spouse brings about healing.

However, if you’re like most people, saying sorry doesn’t always come easy. These 5 tips should help:

Identify the problem:
A blanket “I’m sorry,” or even worse, a vague “I’m sorry for whatever I did to upset you” will come off sounding insincere. Ask questions if you need to understand what the specific issue is and then address that issue. “I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I wasn’t listening.”

Don’t Reopen the Case:
Start with “I’m sorry” and end before the “BUT.” It’s that simple. This isn’t when you attempt to qualify why you did what you did (or didn’t do.) It is also not when you point out what your spouse did wrong.

I Feel You:
Often we just want someone to recognize our emotions. Once you’ve identified the problem and apologized, let your spouse know that you get it. “I’m sorry if I gave the impression I didn’t care. I can see how that would be very frustrating for you.”

Consider a Solution:
If you have a means to correct the situation or to prevent a similar occurrence in the future, share it. If you don’t, that’s ok too. Ask your spouse for input or talk it through together.

Forgiveness is a Gift:
When you’re on the receiving end, be gracious. Forgiveness is not excusing the infraction or condoning an offense. Forgiveness is giving up your right to keep brooding over it or to ‘get even.’ Forgiving releases you both.

Challenge: Spend some time reading God’s words on repentance and forgiveness. What verses speak to you?

1 thought on “I’m Sorry: How to Say it and Mean it”

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