How to Really Apologize

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By: Jimmy Rhoades | Adapted For Web By Dave Hanson Posted: 4:23 PM, Aug 22, 2022 Updated: 6:48 PM, Aug 26, 2022

Maybe it’s a product of our polarized culture… so many people with strong opinions, and an inability to back down, even if they’re wrong…maybe because saying “i’m sorry” can be seen as a sign of weakness even when in reality, it’s a show of strength.

We talked to Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, author of “On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World,” about the art and science of apologies. She started by running down the FIVE STAGES OF REPENTANCE.

It starts with CONFESSION.

Avoid the instinct to minimize or justify your actions, and straight-up own the harm you’ve caused. When you do that, the person who was harmed gets validated in what was done to them. You stop hiding from the truth, and others can see you and support you in your growth and in your transformation.


It’s not enough to say you did something because you were acting out of trauma. If you don’t do the work to address that trauma, then you’ll probably get that button pushed again, and end up hurting someone all over. Start fixing the underlying problem, then you can start on a journey of change and growth.


This is the first step you’re actually reaching out to the other party and asking what they need — not to undo what you did, but to undo the damage you did. Do the victims need to have their therapy paid for? Do they need compensation for time off? It depends on the situation.

And only now, at step four, are you ready to fully express a sincere APOLOGY.

Sure, you apologize as a way of acknowledging to someone that you hurt them – but it’s also because you have to, because something deep inside you is begging to say these words. You want the other person to know how much you regret your actions, that you’re horrified and ashamed that you did this thing and you’re genuinely contrite.

Finally, reassure your victim that you’re on the path to MAKING DIFFERENT CHOICES.

This will let them know that your regret is real, and that if nothing else, their pain contributed to your growth. So turn those apologies into a real process of repentance. The more we take responsibility for our actions, the more we can create a culture where we’re all taking care of each other, where there’s more love and care to go around everywhere. It’s win, win, win, win, win.

That’s a look at why learning how to say you’re sorry, is something you’ll never regret.