The Daily Groove


Positive Apology

A conventional apology is rooted in the apologizer's fear of unworthiness. Young children, who know their inherent worthiness, rarely apologize except under duress or when emulating adults.

A "positive apology" is possible, however. The thoughts behind it might go like this:

"All Is Well with me and you. Our well-being and worthiness are certainties. I am aware that some of my past actions were out of accord with who and what I know myself to be. And in that awareness, I have more clarity about how I want to interact with you from now on."

In other words, a positive apology is simply an affirmation of Who You Really Are. No shame. No blame.

Children aren't picky about how they express such thoughts. It could be as simple as a hug or "I love you."

Next time you feel like apologizing to your child, speak as if you were expressing only love and appreciation. Remember, your "vibe" matters more than your words.

See examples in comments below...

Is it enough?

A reader responded:

That just doesn’t feel like enough to me. I want to model that I know I've hurt him.

He wants you to model unconditional well-being — to remind him (not verbally, but through your knowing) that he IS okay even if he is temporarily in pain. The idea that he will feel more right if you make your behavior wrong is a cultural distortion. He has nothing to gain from having a mother who is wrong. He wants a mother who is empowered and knows that her worthiness is not diminished when she falls short of her ideals.

I want to mirror/model that I recognise that its not OK and I want to say sorry (which is said from love not unworthiness).

He wants to know that it IS okay to make mistakes. When truly "said from love," you feel love for yourself, too, and when you love yourself unconditionally, you know it's okay to make mistakes.

...In apologising I am making a stand for what is important to me — so that in the end its about me, not him. I am saying to myself this is who I want to be, and then I am mirroring that to my child.

Good. That sounds like what I wrote in my message. The key distinction is... Are you really taking a stand for what you value, or are you taking a stand against what you did?

How to phrase?

Another reader asked:

Can you give us some examples of how a parent could phrase these? Say for example, after having "lost it" and yelled or gotten overly upset with one's child.

I totally love the reminder that the vibe matters more than the words. I have to always remember to check that first.

Therein lies the problem with your request: If you were to go with my idea of a "correct" phrasing, you'd be bypassing your personal "vibe-check." The words really don't matter, and you don't really need to explain yourself or use words at all.

But if you feel strongly that some explanation would help, you'll probably want to avoid judgmental words like "wrong" and "bad" and give more airtime to your positive vision: "The way I really want to be with you is...."

The Big Picture

Keep in mind that my concept of "positive apology" is not offered as a fix-it technique. Rather, it's a part of a bigger picture: the paradigm shift from the dominator/scarcity/competitive worldview to a partnership/abundance/creative worldview.

In other words, the above message is simply the answer to the question, "What would an apology look like from the new worldview? How would you apologize in a culture that is pleasure-oriented and no one is committed to being 'right' or making anyone 'wrong'?"

Re: Positive Apology

A reader sent me this comment...

Somehow the words you used today sound somewhat pompous or stilted to me and I am wondering if you could somehow convey the same thing more simply...

My response:

The quotation in today's groove is described as the "thoughts behind" the actual apology. I was attempting to convey the spirit of a positive apology, not to describe the apology itself. Of course you wouldn't say those actual words unless you are pompous and stilted! ;)

Here's a general example of how I have apologized to my children, usually after reconnecting through gentle words, making eye contact, trying to feel our hearts, inviting them to sit on my lap, etc...

"I don't feel good about [what I did/said/etc.]. That's not the kind of daddy I want to be. I want to feel connected to you and always remember how much I love you. I want us to be partners. I want [specific desires regarding the situation]. Do you want that, too?"

And I'll say once more: The spirit is more important than the words. In fact, a positive apology can be given entirely without words and still be fully received.