Moment Of Clarity

The Essence of An Apology

“Forgiving someone doesn’t mean what they did to you was OK. It means you won’t carry the pain of the actions.”

“I’m sorry” are the two hardest words to say, but they hold the power to heal another’s soul. So, why is it that when someone says, “I’m sorry” their apology is not accepted?

Well, there are a number of reasons, but the two main ones I tend to notice are:

1) The person receiving the apology doesn’t feel the apology is sincere; or

2) The timing of the apology is off (e.g. the person is still feeling the backlash of the act and is preoccupied with their pain).

In my work, I’ve noticed that the “essence” of what makes an apology acceptable and healing is remorse in that if a person feels remorse they are more likely to be forgiven – in time.

Below are the “ingredients” found in an apology that tend to be accepted. I am offering this as a way of helping people better understand how they affect one another, develop empathy, and heal their relationships. At the end of the day, forgiveness and compassion is key to building healthier relationships, people, and lives.

1) Be specific. General apologies lack connection and make the receiver wonder if you are apologizing because you have to or because you think you should. General apologies can also be experienced as insulting and make matters worse because they don’t speak to the effects of your behavior.

2) Be sincere. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. The worst thing you can do is say you’re sorry just so you can get it out of the way. If you do not feel remorseful about your actions, you’re better off leaving it alone until you are.

3) Be engaged. When you apologize, focus on the individual and circumstance at hand. Listen to them and let them have their feelings. The emotional release is part of the healing.

4) Take responsibility for your role. If you did it, own it. Don’t blame another person or circumstance for what you’ve done. We all have a choice and while some choices are easier to make than others, we still have a choice.

5) Acknowledge the fallout. Let them know that your behavior resulted, either directly or indirectly, in what happened to them. This helps them know that you understand the consequences and impact your actions had on their life.

6) Share your wishes. Tell them what you would like to happen moving forward. Understand, they may say, “f*ck you” and be within their right to do so. Respect their decision to either move forward towards a healthier relationship or not.

Do you have an “I’m sorry” story you would like to share? Please do so in the comments section below! I’d love to read them.

With love and light.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and RoHun.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!