When Should You Apologize?

The other day I was listening to one of my sisters tell me a story:

She and her 4-year-old daughter had just arrived home from a fun day at Disneyland. My sister was unloading her car as her daughter happily trotted inside. All of a sudden my sister heard a terrible screaming noise and immediately her Mama-Bear instincts kicked in! With adrenaline racing through her veins, she ran to check on her daughter. Thankfully, the screams were not her daughter. She ran outside again, toward the screamstrying to find the victim and offer help. What she found was a neighbors dog violently attacking another neighbors smaller dog. The screaming sound was coming from the smaller dog!

The owner of the smaller dog came running out of her house crying and frantically trying to save her baby. She yelled and kicked at the bully dog and grabbed her dog just in time. Just then, the owner of the other dog drove around the corner. She stopped her car, got out, and began to assess the situation. My sister admits that she does not have a Fight or Flight response, she has a Fight or Fight response when others are being harmed and/or taken advantage ofso she was not being politically correct with this woman.

You see, this bully dog had attacked my sisters dog in the past, and now she just witnessed another attack. The thoughts of her little daughter being the next innocent victim consumed her and she unleashed on this dog owner. She yelled at this woman and said some unfiltered things. Feelings of rage filled her, as she felt held hostage by this bruit dogthis dog is a threat to other animals and children in their otherwise safe neighborhoodthis owner should not let this dog out! My sister threatened that if this dog ever attacks another animal or person that she will shoot it!

After the fact, my sister did not feel good about what she had said. She thought about her words and knew that she did not handle the situation with grace. She lost sleep over it. It weighed so heavily on her conscience, that she took action. This was not an easy thing to doeating crowbut she went to this womans home and apologized! This apology released all the turmoil that was going on inside of her. The sad thing though, is that this woman did not accept her apology or take ownership for her dogs actions.

(used without object)

1. To offer an apology or excuse
some fault, insult, failure, or injury:
apologized for accusing her falsely.

There are several really important lessons here:

  • When you have done something wrong, whether it is eating at you or not, you need to apologize. That is the right and moral thing to do, no matter how it is received. If you dont make it right, you will carry it with you forever. You will always feel uncomfortable around that person. It will get harder to apologize as time goes on. Nip it in the bud, swallow your pride, and do the right thing.


  • Apologizing and forgiving (they are in the same vein here) are for your benefit, not the other person involved. You see, my sister was able to clear her conscience, regardless of how that woman responded to her apology. Likewise, when you forgive someone, it is so your heart can be set freenot so the person who harmed you can feel better. You are not responsible for anybodys feelings and actions but your own.


  • Apologizing for what you believe in compromises your characterHowever, apologizing for defending your beliefs in a hateful way is the right thing to do. My sister believes a bully dog should not be loose on their safe-family-friendly-street; she also believes that she could have handled it differentlyso she was not apologizing for the content, just her delivery.


  • Apologizing should be done only if you were in the wrong. If my sister had delivered the message with caring and loving words, she would have no reason to apologize. She made it right because she felt she was harsh and abrupt. Too many people I have known apologize for every little thing. Im sorry flows out of their mouths as a natural response, even if they have done nothing wrong. Its as if they are apologizing for their very existence. This shows a deep need to set personal boundaries and to work on and grow their self esteem.


Take Action: This week and beyond, lets apologize to anyone who honestly deserves it (You know who that is!). Also, lets be mindful of when we do or say something that warrants an apology and make it right immediatelylets not let time ferment the situation! And finally, if you are someone who apologizes continually, especially for things that are not your faultSTOP! Set a healthy boundary for yourself and stick to it.


  1. It’s certainly easy to react like that when you’re so angry, scared or frustrated. It might not be the best way to handle the situation, but it is certainly understandable. At least your sister can rest her conscious because she did apologize after having time to calm down and think about it. However, if the dog is a real threat (obviously it is since it attacks other dogs), then it should be reported to animal control. I’m definitely an animal lover, but irresponsible owners are exactly why bad things happen. Mistakes do happen sometimes (a dog sneaks out an open door or a tie-out cable breaks), but if she’s not taking responsibility for the dog’s actions and isn’t taking any precautionary measures…

  2. Good Morning
    I read your blog just a few minutes ago and thought wow the power we hold is truly Abundant . I got to thinking about the way people conduct themselves in any given situation. Wheather we are being attacked brutally face to face or silentely behind our backs?
    I have been very fortunate in my life and have been blessed with many friends some acquaintances some really long lasting friendships.
    Your story of your sister and the nasty neighbor with the nasty bully dog got me to wondering why some people take this stance. Wouldn’t it have been much kinder for this woman to say I am so sorry I know you must have been so frightened what can I do to make you feel better?
    Instead she chose to take the nasty bully way and although your sister felt relief and resolve surly this neighbor cannot be pleased with her self.
    I personally do not understand this isolating sort of behavior out of anyone much less a neighbor. I think I would try to find out the circumstances behind this woman’s past. Maybe she lives alone, she is lonely people ostersize her or possibility just haven’t taken the time to understand why she would not accept your sister’s apology .
    The moral of my thinking is the apology enough? Or should they try harder to help this neighbor and have a final resolute of the problem at the root of the source. Just my thoughts. Have a wonderful week .

  3. I find the older I get the less I have to apologize for. It has taken 17 years with my husband to realize we have both adapted and overcome our stubborn “I am right” behavior. Beings parenting is fairly new to me (my kids are 8 and 10) I find myself apologizing on a more frequent basis. I am quick to respond, sometimes in anger, and that is where I need to improve. Someday, I’ll be able to say that I have figured this out also.

    Apologies give you a new lease on things that otherwise would consume you. I know, I have been there as I’m sure many others have right along with me.

    Thanks for a thought provoking morning!

  4. Gigi Peterson says:

    I can so relate to your sister in that situation. I have been in situations where I let my emotions get out of control and find myself needing to apologize for what came out of my mouth, when I wasn’t even in the wrong to begin with. That is a very tough situation to “eat crow”. My inability to keep my feelings in check took the focus away from the real issue and onto me, leaving the real issue unresolved or the other party with a false sense of entitlement to their wrong doing. Anyway…..saying sorry can be so liberating. But stopping to take a deep breath and say a quick prayer for God to help calm you down before you put yourself in a position that will require you to apologize would be a good idea!!

  5. D

    Those were some of your best words yet. A true apology, facing the risk of someone taking your apology and using it against you, is an act of courage.

    Unfortunately it is often easier to forgive than it is to forget.

    Love Aunt Judy

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