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10 Excuses for Not Saying “I’m Sorry” or Making Amends

images-308Among the most powerful words to say in healing our relationships are, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me. How can I make it up to you?

And yet, even when we know we’ve acted wrongly, something inside blocks us from saying so or taking action to make amends. More often, that something is a set of beliefs we hold that act as excuses.

Excuses are often assumptions that, whether conscious or subconscious, block us from taking action. Here are ten most frequent ones.

1.  If I admit I did something “bad” that means I’m all bad, and that nothing good I’ve ever done can be appreciated. 

This excuse also distracts us from directly resolving an issue. It focuses our attention on our fears, in particular the fear of not fulfilling our yearnings to matter and to feel we contribute value in our relationships.  This is a shared experience however. Like you, the other person is also wired to yearn to feel like a good and worthwhile person, recognized for their contributions. The point here is that it was our actions that hurt the other, not our self as a person. This is a vital distinction. When our actions caused some harm, the ball is in our court to restore a sense of trust and safety in the relationship.

2. If I let myself feel bad about hurting you that would unleash all the painful feelings I’ve kept hidden tightly inside me, such as shame, guilt,  fear, and this would swallow me up.

This excuse misdirects us to focus on avoiding pain rather than identifying the problem, what part we own, what action we can take toward resolution, and so on. It makes sense that you don’t like feeling vulnerable this way.  It also makes sense to feel uncomfortable emotions when someone is upset by our actions. It’s even useful to us! These feelings tell us we care, and that’s a good thing.  It’s a source of information that, if you’re open, can grow your understanding of the situation. In other words, potentially, this is critical action-activating information. Whereas ignoring the vulnerable aspects of being human can keep us weak and fearful of the vulnerable aspects of our human nature, learning how to own and to strengthen our own sense of emotional safety in a triggering situation is an essential life skill that grows and strengthens our courage and confidence in the long run. Be open and willing to get comfortable with what is uncomfortable to you.

3. It’s up to the other to prove they’re a good, unselfish person by forgiving and moving on.  

The truth is that both of you are good persons, at heart. Like genuine love, genuine forgiveness is a reciprocal process that nurtures both persons, and allows them to learn and grow their wisdom in the process. It is a willingness to engage in whatever actions necessary to nourish the relationship between two people, and enriches the growth and wellbeing of each. It’s as harmful to not acknowledge we’ve hurt another, as it is to be the one that is pressured to forgive and forget, especially when actions are repetitive. If we want vibrant and healthy relationships, we must be willing to engage heartfelt efforts to own actions that, wittingly or unwittingly, hurt a person we love, and let them know with our words and actions to back our intentions.

4. A strong person never admits or asks to be forgiven, they’re entitled to be automatically forgiven and to treat others as they see fit.

No one is entitled to automatic forgiveness, especially when actions are repetitive, in fact, in some contexts, this can “enable” us to form unhealthy habits, perhaps even addictions. It’s not helpful to think of forgiveness as an automatic requirement. It does not help either person learn how to better relate to their feelings and thoughts, wants and needs, one another, themselves, or their relationship. It also takes less energy for person who wronged another to take action to bring the necessary ingredients that create the context for healing to take place.

5. If I admit I was wrong, I will seem weak and vulnerable in their eyes and mine. 

It’s actually the other way around. It takes a lot of courage and strength to own one’s actions, to make changes to prevent repeating the wrongful action — to even say those words! It grows courage in the process, thus, more confidence.

6. I am not worthy of forgiveness. 

This thinking makes us more likely to repeat mistakes and wrongful actions. It’s limited belief that leads us to take actions that are harsh on others and ourselves, and thus does not allow anyone to heal. It’s essential to realize that we are not our beliefs or emotions or thoughts; we are the creator of these. As much as we yearn for compassion from others, we need our own. We need to see our self as a human being who not only has a right to make and learn from mistakes, but also this is essential way we grow, and keep growing a lifetime.

7. Nothing can undo the wrong I’ve done.

This belief keeps us stuck in the past, feeling powerless to change. We need to know that we always have a choice to change a situation by changing and improving the way we express our love — in action.

8. They’ll never forgive me, so why should I try? 

This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and again reflects an excuse that takes away our power to take action by persuading us that we are helpless in changing the situation. While earning one’s forgiveness may be healing for the other and our relationship, for the most part, we need to think of this as something we are doing that is in our highest interest.

9. If I work to earn forgiveness, I’m saying I’m the only one who did wrong. What about how they’ve hurt me?

This excuse keeps us focused on the problem in a way that can fuel attack, counterattack, and may explain why we hurt the other person. The truth is hurt people hurt people. To make amends, we must deal with our hurts separately, otherwise, they become mere justifications for more wrongful actions. It’s essential that we learn how to separate and deal with one issue at a time, and in general follow other guidelines for healthy communications that support both to feel safe enough to open their hearts to share what is in their mind and heart to say.

10. It makes no sense to earn forgiveness if the other no longer wants a relationship. 

This excuse prevents us from seeing that our responses to actions, and taking responsibility for our actions, is something we do to enhance our own peace of mind and wellbeing. It may be too late to restore the relationship, however, it’s always a new beginning that can alter the course in your life in the relationships that are to come. We do not need to have a relationship with the other person to seek forgiveness. We set an intention to feel pain rather than pleasure in hurting others, and to feel pleasure in being open and wanting to make amends. We heal ourselves whenever we refrain repeating an action that we now understand is hurtful to our relationships. Our peace of mind and health depends on learning to activate healing patterns and processes.

10 Excuses for Not Saying “I’m Sorry” or Making Amends

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik shows clients how to break free of anxiety, addictions, and other emotional blocks, to awaken radiantly healthy lives and relationships. Dr. Staik is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2017). 10 Excuses for Not Saying “I’m Sorry” or Making Amends. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 19 Jan 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jan 2017
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