There are many times in life when we wish to start over. And many opportunities to begin again. Every day can be a new beginning, if you know how to let go of what was, and embrace a new what is.

Apologizing is a way to clear out old issues and be able to move on. In the twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s called “making amends.” People who have been out of control with a substance or behavior often feel they have a lot to be forgiven for. The best road to achieving forgiveness is to apologize.

I’ve encountered many clients who are afraid to admit they're wrong. This comes from a culture of blaming and accusing—where one’s early family may have picked a “culprit” when something went wrong, and focused on blame, rather than on fixing the problem and healing the hurt. People with such experiences approach every situation as if they’re on trial, and they compulsively try to convince everyone they're not guilty. They have no patterns to follow for apology and forgiveness. Even people who approach most things with confidence can feel awkward and uncomfortable when they need to apologize.

These steps may help to make apologizing easier and more effective:

Dr. Romance’s 4 Steps: How to apologize
1. Surrender to your responsibility. When you become aware that you have made a mistake, admit it and apologize. Use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You don’t have to be afraid of punishment or rejection; apologizing makes it easier to be forgiven.

2. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong.
Don’t approach every situation as if you’re on trial, and don’t compulsively try to convince everyone you’re not guilty. Apology and subsequent forgiveness is stress-releasing, and healthy for the relationship, which turns out to be healthy for the participants in the relationship. Relationships which include healthy apology and forgiveness are less stressful, more supportive, and therefore healthier for the individuals within them.

3. Follow the following pattern for apology:
Admit your mistake: Speak directly to the person to whom you need to apologize.
• State what you did (so the person knows you’re aware)
• Say you’re sorry
• Do a re-take: Describe what change you’ll make to fix it, and so it won’t happen again • Say “I hope you can forgive me.”

4. If that doesn’t work, ask the other person what he or she wants you to apologize for (in case you misunderstood your mistake)

For many of us, beginning again requires forgiveness. My clients often need to forgive themselves before they can let go of the past and move on. This forgiveness may be about falling short of their own expectations, or expectations of parents and others around them in the past. Some need to forgive themselves for not being loved by someone.

As I wrote in “Apology and Forgiveness
The need to forgive may include several things:
• You may need to forgive yourself for doing emotional, mental or physical damage to others.
• You may need to forgive yourself for doing emotional, mental or physical damage to yourself.
• You may need to forgive yourself for letting others damage you in those ways.
• You may need to forgive others (parents, children, spouses, friends) for hurting themselves in all the above ways.
• You may need to forgive others for doing emotional, mental or physical damage to you.

Safely and honestly forgiving all these past hurts is not accomplished by simply giving up resentment. First you must find a way to be safe from future damage and abuse. Once you have learned how to create safety you can rely on, and you know you have the ability to protect yourself from damage, and to prevent yourself from causing damage, forgiving past destructive behavior, (your own and others’) becomes easy, because you are no longer threatened. When you have real reasons for resentment, both against others and against yourself; the assurance that you can take care of yourself so that you won’t be hurt again is the only thing that makes true forgiveness possible.

Forgiveness is not easy. When you have truly forgiven, there is no lingering resentment, because the problem is solved. You have learned how to heal the hurt and prevent its reoccurrence, so you can forgive and wipe the slate clean. Knowing how to express feelings and figuring out a way to prevent a similar hurt from happening again makes it possible to forgive each other.
2018 Tina B. Tessina

adapted from: The REAL 13th Step: Discovering Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the 12-Step Programs

Author Bio: Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 40 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 14 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences, The Real 13th Step, How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog), and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter. Online, she’s known as “Dr. Romance.” Dr. Tessina appears frequently on radio, TV, video and podcasts. She tweets @tinatessina
Phone: (562)438-8077  |  for permission to reprint, email:
All material ©2018 Tina Tessina. All rights reserved.