To be a good apologizer, you might have to hold two things at the same time.

  1. You hurt someone else.
  2. But also, you didn’t mean to.

(I’m not talking about when people intentionally hurt each other, because honestly, I think that’s a fraction of the harm we do in relationships. Most of the time, it’s an accident.)

If you have trouble holding both things true, you’ll probably stick to the one that benefits you the most. That’s a normal reaction. You’re human. You may then convince yourself that since you didn’t mean to hurt them, they shouldn’t be hurt. Why should you apologize when what you did was fine? They’re the ones who misinterpreted it. If they would just see it your way, they wouldn’t have to be upset, right?

If only it worked like that.

When my husband criticizes a new recipe I make for dinner, his motivation may be to help me improve the recipe next time (or discourage me from ever making it again), but his intention doesn’t determine my reaction. I like to think I mostly let that stuff roll off my back but there have been times when I’ve been offended, when I’ve felt unappreciated for the hours I put in each week to select recipes, make menus, shop for groceries, and get a meal on the table most nights. (Look at that little martyr narrative picking up steam. LOL)

Just because he never wanted to hurt my feelings, doesn’t mean they don’t get hurt, and when it comes to repair in our relationships, hurt feelings are the highest priority. That’s why it’s so important that we don’t use our intentions as a way to avoid dealing with the person’s upset. We can know they were good and true. We can even share them, if it matters to the other person. We just can’t use them as an excuse to not apologize.

So the next time, you’ve hurt someone’s feelings, I recommend you do two things.

Internally, remind yourself that you’re a good person who doesn’t want to hurt the people you love but who sometimes does even when you’re trying really hard to do your best. Then, go apologize.