Each of us has fallen off our applecart and done something we regret. One of the best ways to get back on track and strengthen our willpower, is to truly apologize—to ourself and others, with our whole heart.

To watch this week’s article with additional, bonus content on the Will You Grow Show, please click here and subscribe to the show here.

Recovering from mistakes isn’t easy.

Let’s face it, it can be hard when we mess up and need to apologize. It can feel deflating and devastating. Maybe we made a mess in our relationship, home, and/or business. Maybe we notice that the people in our life don’t like us or that they don’t like living with the messes we make. Maybe we’re desperate and afraid that they will leave us. And we may not know how to apologize or set things straight.

Though we may be tempted to lie, it will surely fail.

After our mistake, and before an apology, there may be a haunting threat of losing all the “good stuff” in our life—joy of all kinds, including people and things. Under the weight of this threat, it may be very tempting to lie in an attempt to cover up our mistakes and mess, and in hopes that we’ll receive a quick pardon. In this situation, the choice to lie reminds me of the story of a wife who finds someone else’s cookies in her cookie jar. When she asks her husband, the only other person in the house, “Did you put someone else’s cookies in my jar?” he replies, “No, It wasn’t me.” Well, this lie is sure to fail.

The next best thing

One step up from a lie, but still a lukewarm attempt to skate between a lie and a heartfelt apology, is a half-hearted apology. In this instance, we might say, “I’m sorry,” but we still focus on our own pain and gain. We’re focused on what we are going to get out of apologizing, such as a return to the warm bed, the solace of not feeling wrong, or to salve our fears of being abandoned.

What makes this type of apology half-jacked is that we already did something crummy to someone, and now we want that same someone to give us something. Be it forgiveness, a do-over, a get out of jail free card, etc., this kind of half-hearted apology is less of an apology and more a request. It’s a… “Pleez Baby,” take me back, rub my back, and bring me back-on-track, kind of whiplash. And it’s often followed up with a list of lame promises that won’t happen. In these half-hearted apologies, we are not focused on the person that we have injured. In the half-hearted apology, we are saying the words “I’m sorry,” so we feel better and, hopefully, get the result we want—without care or support for the injured person to rise above the pain and suffering that we instigated. Even if we are sorry that we are in a mess, the half-hearted apology is just sympathetic words expressing regret, but nothing is changing on our part as we continue the same, old, choices.

My experience

Having known hundreds of people whom have chosen addiction as their escape-route from fully living, I may have heard every apology known to (wo)man. Personally, if someone in my sphere makes a mess, I prefer to hear nothing, over hearing a lie or a half-hearted apology. Because I can never get back that time that I spent listening. And any apology I may choose to listen to is really my choice to allow the sorry person to get it off their chest. Apologies are just apologies, and for me, they’re not generally meaningful unless accompanied by transformative change(s).

An apology worth listening to.

The rarest, most beautiful and invigorating kind of apology, is one that involves the truth of our whole heart. A heartfelt apology is so rare, that some of us may never hear one. It involves complete sincerity, knowing and sharing our true thoughts, feelings, and weaknesses, and applying our creative imagination to express regret, and an attempt to relate, understand, and care for the feelings of the person who was harmed. A heartfelt apology is a gift—to console the hurting person, in spite of the fact that it may be very challenging for us.

A whole-hearted apology sounds like this…

The truth of a whole-hearted apology may sound something like this, “I am sorry that I was (insensitive, unthinking, disrespectful, etc.). There is no excuse for my behavior. I was wrapped up in feeling (insecure, angry, selfish, afraid, etc.). Instead of listening to my feelings etc., and doing something positive (like taking time alone, discussing them, exercising etc.), I took it out on (myself, you, him, her, the staff, etc.). My mistake has consequences and I am willing to accept them. I am also deeply sorry and won’t ever do this again (this is imperative). It may be hard to believe and hear right now, but this is my plan to make sure that I never put anyone, including myself, in this situation again. (Create and share your own, fool-proof plan here. Without this step the apology is nearly worthless). I know I cannot change what happened, but what else may I do to help?

A step towards greatness

We’ve all been on the giving or receiving end of an apology. The question is, if we’re going to apologize, are we willing to do it with our whole heart? Whether we offer a heartfelt apology to ourself and/or others, it can be a healthy, healing step to “lighten our load” and quicken our ability to be empowered. Like carrying a hundred-pound pack on a hike over mountain tops, carrying burdens of guilt and regret make our journeys that much more difficult. Instead, if we muster the courage and follow-through to apologize and change, we can unload our baggage and walk easily over cliffs and through the forests of life.

What say ye?

Might there be a heartfelt apology welling up inside of you? Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section so we may learn and grow together…

Always with love,