Category: Apology

Making Restitution

When Dr. Jennifer Thomas and I wrote the book: The Five Languages of Apology, we discovered that one of the strong languages of apology is Making Restitution. “What can I do to make this up to you?” If you don’t offer to make restitution, your apology may seem lame. What they want to know is: “Are you really sorry?” and “Do you still love me?” We also discovered that often what they want you to do in order to “make things right” is to speak their love language. One wife said, “I just want you to hold me, I feel so distant from you.” Her love language was physical touch and she wanted to feel that he still loved her. When you make an apology, don’t forget to ask the question: “What can I do to make this up to you?” Then, honor their request. It makes forgiveness much easier.

Actions that Demonstrate an Apology

If you have been hurt deeply by your spouse or a close friend, you have probably asked this question: “How could they do that if they really loved me?” So, they come to apologize and say, “I’m sorry, I should not have done that. I was wrong.” But you are still asking: “Do you really love me?” That is a legitimate question. Jesus asked that question of Peter three times: “Do you really love me?” When Peter said, “Yes,” Jesus said: “Then feed my sheep.” He gave him something to do to demonstrate his love. Words can be empty. Actions show your sorrow and say to the other person: “In spite of my failure, I really do still love you. I want to make things right between us.” This is the road to lasting relationships.

Making Restitution

When we hurt someone, we know immediately that we have placed an emotional barrier between us and that person. The relationship is now fractured. Time alone will not heal the hurt. It’s time to apologize. But how do we apologize? What do we say or do? Some people simply say, “I’m Sorry.” But for most people, that’s not enough. Many are waiting to hear you offer to make restitution. “What can I do to make this up to you?” is an excellent question. Their answer will help you know how to put teeth into your apology. If you seek to make restitution, they will see your sincerity and likely forgive you. And isn’t that what you want? You want to see the relationship restored. Making restitution is an important language of apology.

The Alternative to Forgiveness

Basically, there is only one alternative to forgiveness: a demand for justice. “You sinned against me and you will crawl on your knees until I feel like forgiving you. If you ever pay me back for this, then I will forgive you!” This is an immensely destructive approach. A better choice is to forgive the offender. He or she has sinned against you and you are hurt, but you say to that person in your own words, “You hurt me deeply, but I want you to know that I forgive you because God has forgiven me. I will treat you as though you did not sin.”

Q&A: Topics that Apply to Couples of all Ages

Q: Your books on marriage seem to be geared toward younger people. Do your principles apply to older people as well?

Gary Chapman: Well, I agree that some of my books are geared more toward younger couples, but many of my books are geared to couples of any age. For example, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been married 2 years or 30 years, learning how to speak each other’s love language is extremely important if you want to have an ongoing healthy relationship. In my books I also address topics like learning how to apologize and how to forgive each other. So I really think that the basic concepts that I seek to share in all of my books can apply to all ages. Now there is one book of mine, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, that is written specifically to singles or engaged couples. In it I try to help them have a healthy marriage from the start. However, even couples that have been married for many years have shared with me how they have benefited from that book. No matter when you start applying the concepts I teach in my books, I believe they will help you work towards a healthy marriage and/or relationship with others.

Why it’s Hard to Forgive

Why is it so hard for us to forgive? I think it is because we are made in God’s image and we have a deep concern for justice. Forgiveness did not come easy with God. That is what the cross of Christ is all about. Because Christ paid the penalty, then God can forgive us and still be just. How do we experience God’s forgiveness? We confess our sins and accept what Christ did for us. So, when others sin against us, forgiveness is not easy. Our sense of justice demands that they pay for their sin. We want to be reconciled, but we do not want to ignore wrongdoing. However, when they confess, we remember that God forgave us when we confessed, and we choose to forgive others. Love is always ready to forgive.

Memory and Forgiveness

What would you say to the wife who says, “I have forgiven him, but I am deeply pained when I remember what he did.”? Would you quote Hebrews 10:17 where God says, “And their sins I will remember no more.”? Would you tell her that if she has not forgotten, then she has not forgiven? I hope not. Forgiveness does not destroy our memory. Our brain records every event we experience. Memory may bring back the feeling of hurt. But forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a promise. Forgiveness says, “I will no longer hold that against you.” When the memory comes back and the pain returns, take it to God and say, “Father, thank You, that is forgiven.” Don’t allow the memory of the past to destroy your day.

Forgiveness is not Always Acceptance

There is a difference between forgiveness and acceptance. You may accept many things about your spouse that you do not particularly like. In fact, such acceptance is necessary in healthy marriages. But forgiveness presupposes that you have been wronged, treated unfairly. In the Bible, such action is called sin and sin cannot be accepted. There are two responses to sin; we can confess our wrongdoing and seek forgiveness or we can continue in our sin. The one who continues in sin will not be forgiven. In fact, God will bring discipline to the Christian who continues in sin. His desire is that we turn from our sin so that we can experience His forgiveness, and have warm fellowship again. In a healthy marriage, this will also be our desire.

I Am Not a Perfect Husband

I wish I were a perfect husband: always kind, thoughtful, understanding, and loving. Unfortunately, I am not. I am sometimes selfish, thoughtless, and cold. In short, I fail to live up to the biblical ideal for a Christian husband. Does this mean that my marriage is destined for failure? Not if I am willing to admit my failures and my wife is willing to forgive. God is our model. The scriptures say that God is always willing to forgive if we are willing to confess and repent. Confession is an admission that we are wrong. Repentance is the desire to turn from our sinful behavior. Forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation. It is essential if we are to have a growing marriage.

War and Peace

One of the barriers to communication is uncontrolled anger. When you are lashing out at your spouse, you are declaring war. If they respond with angry words, you may have a full scale battle. The good news is that we have the ability to control anger rather than being controlled by anger. Call a ‘time out’ and give yourself time to cool off. Then, come back with your emotions under control and share your concerns in a soft voice. Does it sound impossible? It’s not. In fact, it’s biblical. The scriptures say, “being angry sin not, don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” It is not sinful to feel angry. Anger indicates that something is wrong. You need to talk about it, but in a constructive manner. Learning to control anger fosters good communication.