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More Than Just Sorry

What do you say or do when you apologize to someone? For some, it’s “I’m sorry.” To them, that is an apology. To others, “I’m sorry,” is just getting started. They want to hear, “I was wrong. I should not have done that. What can I do to make it up to you? I want to find a way that I will not repeat this behavior next week. I do hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me.” After two years of research, Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I discovered that there are five ways that people typically apologize. We called them the five languages of apology. Most people only speak one or two of the languages – the ones we were taught as children. In order to apologize effectively, we must learn to speak our apology in a way that the other person will understand.

Apologizing Enhances One’s Self-Esteem

People who grow up with low self-esteem, often find it difficult to apologize. To them, an apology seems to be a sign of weakness. In reality, apologizing enhances one’s self-esteem. People respect the man or woman who is willing to take responsibility for their own failures. Receiving the respect and admiration of others thus enhances how we feel about ourselves. On the other hand, those who try to hide or excuse wrongful behavior will almost always lose the respect and affirmation of others. A sincere apology is always a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness. Apology opens the door to forgiveness. And forgiveness means that we can now continue to grow in our relationship. It’s never too late to learn to apologize.

Some People Almost Never Apologize

When Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I wrote the book: The five languages of Apology, we discovered that some people almost never apologize. One wife said, “My husband rarely apologizes, because he doesn’t see a lot of what he does as wrong. He finds it hard to admit that he makes mistakes.” This husband is living in an unrealistic world. All of us sometimes make harsh, critical, and unloving comments. When we are unwilling to accept responsibility for our words or behavior we erect a barrier between us and the person we hurt. Barriers are not removed without apologies and forgiveness. In fact, you cannot have a growing marriage without apologies.

Why is Apologizing so Hard?

Why is apologizing so hard? One husband said, “I know I did wrong, but so did she. In fact, she precipitated the whole thing. Why should I apologize when she’s the one who started it?” The problem with the waiting game is that the average life span for men and women is 75 years. How much of your life do you want to spend in a ‘cold war’? I’ve know people who have spent 30 years living in the same house, waiting for the other person to apologize. Why would you do that? I know it’s not all your fault, but some of it is. Apologize for your part and see what happens. The first step is often the hardest. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Take responsibility for your failures and request forgiveness.

Resentment Doesn’t Go Away With a Hug

If when you hug your spouse and they stiffen up, and it feels like you are hugging a tree, there’s a reason. Either physical touch is not their love language, or, they have a lot of resentment toward you because of your past behavior. The answer to the first is to discover their love language and begin to speak it. However, the answer to the second is more difficult. Resentment is the result of hurt. It doesn’t go away with a hug. It goes away when you sincerely apologize, and change your behavior. Saying, “I’m sorry,” is not an adequate apology. You must admit your wrong, and ask what you might do to make things right. Learn the love language of your spouse and speak it daily. In time, resentment will fade and they will accept your hug.

Your ‘Touch’ Says, “I Love You.”

If your spouse complains, “I don’t think you would ever touch me if I didn’t initiate it,” they are telling you that ‘physical touch’ is their love language. What makes them feel loved is when you reach out and hold their hand as you walk across the parking lot, or give them a hug when they walk in the door. Your ‘touch’ says, “I love you.” When you seldom touch, their love tank becomes empty and they begin to feel that you don’t love them. I know that physical touch may not feel comfortable to you, but you can learn. Set a goal of one touch a day. It may be as simple as putting your hand on their shoulder as you pour a cup of coffee. Or putting your hand on their leg as you watch TV. Each touch will make the next one easier. And, your spouse will feel your love.

Have You Hugged Your Child Today?

Have you hugged your child today? Or, if you’re married, have you hugged your spouse today? How long has it been since you kissed each other? Physical touch is one of the five love languages. Some people grew up in homes were family members seldom touched each other. For these people, learning to speak the love language of physical touch will take effort. The good news is that you can learn to touch. I remember the father who said, “I know that my son’s love language is physical touch because he’s always touching me. But, I have a hard time touching him. My father never touched me, so it doesn’t seem natural to me.” My advice? Learn, one touch at a time. Begin with one finger on the shoulder. Every time you touch, will make the next one easier.

Physical Touch

Physical touch is one of the five love languages. For some people, it is their primary love language. If you want them to feel loved, then give them a hug, or a pat on the back. This is true for children as well as adults. If a child’s love language is physical touch and you seldom hug the child, the child will grow up feeling unloved. I remember a prison inmate who told me that he grew up feeling unloved by his mother. When he read my book: The Five Love Languages, he discovered that his love language was physical touch. “But, my mother never hugged me,” he said. “The first time I remember her hugging me was the day I left for prison.” How tragic. Don’t let that happen to your child. Hug them every time they leave the house and when they return.

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