A certain individual has been disrespectful to a parent. The adult child feels that since they said “sorry,” that is enough. But it was a very general apology, and they did not take responsibility for their actions. The parent accepted the apology, but is still very hurt. The adult child believes their parent is acting “infantile” (the parent is eighty-three years old). What can I say to get across to the adult child the importance of working this situation through?


An apology has two distinct parts: saying sorry and asking for forgiveness.

An apology has two distinct parts: saying sorry and asking for forgivenessWhen we say, “I am sorry,” we are making a statement about ourselves: I am remorseful, I regret my actions, and I hope not to repeat them.

But an apology is not just about you and your feelings. It is about the person you hurt as well. You don’t apologize just to absolve yourself from guilt, but more to acknowledge that you are the cause of someone else’s pain, and to take responsibility for it. For this you must do more than say sorry; you must ask for forgiveness.

This means that even if you are in the right and actually did nothing wrong; even if the other person misinterpreted your words or actions; even if you have nothing to regret; nevertheless, if someone else is hurting—perhaps mistakenly—you need to apologize. You are not asking forgiveness for what you have done; you are asking forgiveness for any pain you may have caused.

If it were just some stranger on the street that you had hurt, then it would suffice to genuinely say “sorry” and move on. But this is a parent. You have only one set of parents, and you don’t have them forever. Whether they were the greatest parents in the world or not, they went through a lot for you. They deserve respect. Give it to them before it is too late.