Another basic in effectively resolving conflict is having the ability to take ownership and say "I'm sorry". But again, because this goes against the grain for many, our society has tended to weaken, and even destroy, true apology. Apology becomes watered down. Some cultures don't even do that much; there are cultures in this world where face saving has become such a fine art, taking the initiative to make things right or say sorry first is seen as a sign of weakness.
In western culture, saying "sorry" has become almost flippant, kind of like saying "love"..as in "oh, I love chocolate!" We say sorry....alot... but seldom with true confession. We even jump to a quick "sorry" in hopes that whatever it was we did can be swept under the rug, forgiven and forgotten. We believe that saying sorry equates to seeking forgiveness and even repentance, but depending on the motive behind the sorry, this sometimes can be the furthest thing from the truth. How often as children did we say sorry because we knew that was what our parents wanted to hear, or told us to say?
Scripture tells us to "confess your sins to one another, forgive one another". So how is it that we've come to think that saying "I'm so sorry" is true confession that deserves true forgiveness? Perhaps because we have not learned the art of confession near as well as we've learned the "ploy" of saying sorry.
Let's say you and I have a disagreement over something, and I say some nasty things to you. A few days goes by, and the guilt is eating at me. So, I call you up and we go to coffee and I say "I'm really sorry about what I said the other day. I didn't mean it. I don't know what got into me, I've been so stressed and on edge lately........" and you listen as my voice slowly ebbs and dwindles away, and I look at you with expectation. Put yourself into that conversation....how are you feeling?
Or even better yet....go back to any particular "apology" that sounded like this....."I apologize for what I said the other day, I was just so stressed and......" Again, how are you feeling?
Now, let's try it the biblical way...which means I've spent some time before the "alter" hearing from Holy Spirit about what in me caused me to behave that way, and how that behavior affected you...so then I call you, we go to coffee and...
"Last week I said some horrible things to you that hurt you. I have no excuse. I've prayed about it, and have come to realize that I lash out and attack to get my way. That is selfish of me, and unfair to you, and I'm so sorry. Will you forgive me for hurting you? I can't promise that it won't happen again, but I can promise you that I am going to try to turn from this behavior. You and our friendship are too important to me not to"
Now how do you feel?
When we attempt to authentically identify how our actions have affected others, and we put words to it, we have taken a huge step towards empathy, and love. We have validated them, instead of excusing us. And we have truly made confession. Because confession has two facets....we confess our action but we also confess our understanding of what our actions have caused. And even if we don't get the "cause and affect" right, just trying to get understanding creates a solid bridge on which we both can walk.