The Necessity and Heart of Apology


My kids and I have watched the movie Encanto several times. This movie has some deep takeaways for family dynamics, great music and delightful animation, and lots of laughs. (You should watch it if you can.) One poignant moment in the movie is when Abuela Alma, who is consistently harsh and cold to her granddaughter Mirabel apologizes to her for all of it. It is a truly beautiful scene and as a result of their reconciliation, the whole life of their Familia is revived.   

Can what we see in the movies materialize in real life?  I hope so.

We live in an age of “non-apology.” That meager, halfway attempt to save face and smooth things over with another person without taking on any responsibility for wrong.

We have all done it or received it:

“I am sorry if you feel I offended you.”

“You know I was just joking. Nothing to be mad at.”

“I am sorry I hurt you, but you hurt me, too.”

“Just forgive and forget. Let’s move on.”

Then, there is what I call the “Zero Apologies Culture.” This is when we experience disrespect, dismissiveness, manipulation, or slights over and over again. There is never any circle back from the people who have committed a wrong with an acknowledgment that something is amiss. People move on to the next thing. The hurt and pain — which never go away — get swept to the side of our minds and hearts. A growing pile of unaddressed offenses.  

The Zero Apologies Culture leads to fractured relationships and closing of hearts. Even when outward appearances look nice and put together, there is a palpable loss of nearness and genuineness between people. This occurs in friendships, but it also runs rampant in workplaces.  

The saddest place that this happens is in our family relationships. People tend to draw away from each other because of unresolved painful experiences, unhealed hurts. Many grow up in homes where apologies never come easily, if they come at all.  

Is this the legacy we desire to pass on to future generations?

As parents, what is our role in fostering the healing of our families? How can we make shifts in our thoughts and beliefs so that we pass on blessings to those who follow us?

There is a necessity for an apology. And there is heart behind it. The art of apology will require us to live with a mature measure of compassion and love for others. It will depend on a deeper desire for healthy connection versus a desire to hold on to our imagined position in a situation.  

I am learning that true apology and reconciliation come when I take heed to practice humility and introspection (honestly reviewing my actions and thoughts.) I am human and admit — I don’t get things right a LOT of times. At times, I do and say things that are marked by harshness or ego. Sometimes I recognize it immediately. Often, I am reminded of my blunders as I sit and reflect during a lull in my day or after kids are tucked in at night. Sometimes my children call me out and point to the ways I have faltered and hurt them.  

No matter how it comes to my attention, I ultimately will have some big decisions to make. I can either dig my heels in, respond with a dismissive attitude or push the truth away. Or, I can humble myself, and acknowledge where I am off course. I can seek forgiveness from my children and others around me that I wronged, and work to repair the breaches in my relationships. This way brings love and life to them and promotes healing and growth for me as well.  

We can say and live out: 

I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”

“I see that I have hurt you and I apologize.”

“What I did was wrong. How can I make this right?”

Though it is not easy work, it is crucial if we desire to keep pure hearts and cultivate peace and joy around our lives. It takes nothing from us except our pride.  

Yes, we can do this.