Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are at fault, but you find it difficult to apologize? Perhaps you are leading a team or it is a case of you and your co-worker or even your assistant? Do you find it easier to apologize or not? How about if it is a case of messing up publicly and you have no choice but to apologize? What do you do? As Christian leaders or even creatives, these are some questions to ponder upon.
What happens when a Christian leader falls into error or says hurtful words to their followers and doesn’t apologize? While many people think that they don’t apologize because they are proud, that is not always the case. Sometimes, it is just a case of the leader not knowing how to navigate public apologies.
In recent times, many victims of all kinds of abuse have found their voices. As such, several leaders, including Christian leaders, have been required to apologize publicly. Many of such apologies seem obligatory and forced as the leaders end up giving excuses for their uncomely behavior.
It’s important to note that Christian leaders are held to a higher standard and rightly so. Afterall, that demand and responsibility is given based on the platform that leaders stand on. Standing on the stage and being in the limelight produces greater scrutiny. So yes, it’s important to state that learning how to apologize does not and should not in any way diminish the mistakes or errors made by the leader. But knowing how to apologize is just as powerful in beginning the process of healing and restoration.
The question that we must ask ourselves is, does “I’m sorry” alone pass the message? Not exactly. It takes a lot more to fix the damage done and heal the hurting. This brings us to another question, “how can Christian leaders navigate public apologies properly?”
How to Apologize Properly
Sometimes we make occasional wrong decisions, make wrong statements, or not show up when we should. After all, Christian leaders are also humans. It is what you do after making such mistakes that matters. But apologizing doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t do it properly. Here’s how to apologize properly.
State the offense and who was offended
There is always the temptation to be ambiguous about apologies. This means that you aren’t going straight to the point or being upfront about what you have done. A typical example of this is a phrase like “if I have offended anyone.”
Of course, you know who you offended and what the offense was. Instead of beating around the bush, be crystal clear and articulate. Do this by clearly stating your offense. After doing this, you should state who you offended. Apologizing doesn’t reduce who you are as a leader, rather, it shows how mature you are.
Let’s say you spoke harsh words to your media team on the pulpit. A proper apology will require you to say it over the pulpit again. Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say “I am sorry for speaking harshly to the media team.” Your apology is only effective when it is clear what you are apologizing for.
Another temptation that Christian leaders face when trying to apologize publicly is not taking responsibility. Most times, we want to shift the blame, minimize the offense, or make excuses. After all, something must have propelled your action. Trying to apologize by making excuses or shifting the blame just makes it worse.
Don’t forget that it was your action, decision, or indecision that resulted in someone or a group of people getting hurt. You should take full responsibility for those actions, decisions, or indecisions. As we mentioned earlier, be forthcoming and articulate about it.
Of course, certain issues may have led to your indiscretion. It is alright to mention such issues. However, don’t mention them as a way of escape or flimsy excuses. Don’t try to share or pass the blame to others. Doing this comes across as irresponsible and makes the other party not take you seriously.
Don’t shift blames because it backfires in the end. Even when others were involved in the mistake, take responsibility as the leader. It always makes it easy to pass your message. In a nutshell, own your offense.
Show some empathy
Every time you offend someone, you hurt them. It is not okay to just say “I’m sorry” without empathizing with the offended. When you do, it comes across as insensitive and shows that your apology is not exactly genuine. At least, that’s what most people will feel.
You should identify with the hurt that your action or inaction has caused. Let’s go back to the media team example used earlier. After speaking harshly to your media team on the pulpit, your apology wouldn’t be complete when you say “I’m sorry.” You need to do more.
Showing some empathy passes the message across better. You could say something like, “I am truly sorry for speaking harshly to the media team last Sunday. I know that I didn’t give them a chance to explain and that must have hurt. Also, I am sure that it was very embarrassing to do it publicly. Once again, I am sorry.”
Speaking in this manner shows that you are sorry for your action and agree that it was hurtful and embarrassing. What effect does this have on the recipients of the apology? It shows them that you are truly sorry and they should forgive you.
Open apologies don’t diminish you, they make you look stronger.
Showing some remorse always helps to prepare the way for forgiveness. We know that you are sorry about the incident and you have identified with our hurt. That’s great but do you regret that it happened?
People want to know that you are remorseful because it tells them that you are likely not to repeat the error. So you can add this to your apology. “I feel bad that you had to be embarrassed that way by my actions. You don’t deserve that and I am very sorry about it.” Now, you haven’t just identified with the hurt of the offended, you have shown that you regret your action.
Reassurance and forgiveness
This is the final step to completing your apology. At this stage, you are offering your word that you wouldn’t repeat the action. At the same time, you are pleading for forgiveness. It is pretty straightforward.
“I know that I hurt you badly by my actions and I promise not to act in that manner again. To this end, I plead that you find a place in your heart to forgive me.”
These words will melt the heart of the offended and they’ll see more reasons why they should forgive.
Christian leaders should be ready to apologize when they make mistakes. Open apologies don’t diminish you, they make you look stronger. Don’t forget that a public offense will always require a public apology. Finally, an easy way to build trust and accountability among the people that you serve is by apologizing.