Consider how you apologize.
We sometimes rationalize our meager efforts instead of honestly considering what is best. I don’t know if we can always determine if an apology completely fits an offense, but we can certainly consider it, including how the person receiving the apology might respond.
For example, I received an email that mentioned something about possibly talking through a misunderstanding. But the offense was so much more than a misunderstanding. The offense was relationship-ending. However, the person could indeed claim, based on an oddly-phrased email, that an effort toward an apology had been extended.
When a tiny effort is tossed into a gaping pit of offense, it gets lost in the darkness. When apologies don’t fit well, they get swallowed up and often unacknowledged. The opposite can be true, too. An extensive apology for a minimal offense can uncomfortably blow something out of proportion.
In my situation and perhaps in all, forgiveness doesn’t require an apology. I don’t need an apology to forgive. That doesn’t mean the relationship is healed. There’s been no reconciliation. That happens at times, but sometimes it’s the healthiest option given the damage done.
It’s not the first time I haven’t received an apology—and not needed one to forgive—and there have been ample times I’ve needed to extend an apology. Being on the receiving end of an apology (or an offense without one) can be a reminder that when it’s our turn to extend the apology, we need to consider what effort and humility we’re willing to invest in the relationship and situation and whether or not reconciliation and repair are our goals.
Our apology will reveal what motivations and compassion for others we truly have.