This article was written by Youth Advisory Board member Gaby Baum with contributions by fellow member Raul Rosales.
The Power of an Apology
“I’m sorry.” These two words — a simple apology — mean so much more than you may think. These two words stand for change and growth. They are key to maintaining healthy relationships. These words, coming from a teen, may hold even more power than coming from an adult.
Acknowledging mistakes and apologizing for them is a sign of maturity. It is an important part of learning and growing through experience.
Recognizing you might be at fault does not signal weakness. It shows that you realize you’ve made a mistake or overstepped a boundary. It shows you can reflect on your own actions and understand your relationship to the world around you.
Admitting mistakes is a form of strength. Parents, teachers, employers, family, and friends will likely respond well when you own up, apologize, and aim to learn from your mistakes. They will appreciate your effort to improve and invest in your relationship.
Turn an Apology into Action
The power of an apology goes a long way, but the apology does not end with, “I’m sorry.” For an apology to mean something your actions have to change. You have to put into perspective what you have done and change the way you face and address similar situations moving forward.
Part of growing up is learning to recognize your mistakes, own up to them, learn from them, and move past them. Back up your words with real action. If your apology lacks a true intent to change your ways, you may as well not apologize at all. You need to mean it. Think about how you can change your actions to avoid a similar situation in the future or make up for your mistake. Work to regain trust by demonstrating your regret and willingness to improve.
Give Yourself a Break
We are human. We need to give each other some slack to make mistakes.
The people that we look up to — be it our grandparents, parents, or a famous person — have all had to face their mistakes at some point or another and have grown from them in order to get them to where they are in life.
Allow yourself some space for trial and error. No one is perfect. By being able to accept mistakes and move on from them, we learn important life lessons. When we listen and learn from the mistakes of those around us, we gain a greater understanding of how to adapt to our changing environment.
Relationships are a two way street. If you expect others to forgive you for your mistakes, you need to be prepared to forgive them for theirs. Listen respectfully and be willing to understand your parents’ explanations. Be prepared to forgive. Being willing to acknowledge your mistakes and to forgive others for theirs is a skill that will both repair broken relationships and strengthen existing ones.
One More Thought
When you’re willing to show that you know you’ve done something wrong — and that you regret it — you model how to reflect on and learn from what you’ve done. It makes it safer for others to come forward when they’ve made a mistake — including the adults in your life. This is one critical first step towards repairing relationships, and ultimately growing closer.
Thoughts from Members of the Youth Advisory Board
“Always know that even if your parents seem dismissive or unforgiving at first, later they will be pleased that you took the time to explain yourself and that you recognize the importance of saying sorry when you hurt their feelings, or lost their trust.”