What does a specific apology look like in which the offender acknowledges her own specific behavior and how those actions respectively hurt the offended?  Today in part 7 of this series on stiff necks and rebellious hearts, I’m sharing an apology with the exact wording our family has used for years. Twenty years later, I’d teach this same approach again. We have a home in which all eight family members recognize their own sin even in the midst of both parties being unkind and can easily apologize to the other(s). There’s no pouting, silent treatment, doors slammed, “give me some space to think about it,” rather it is a home in which “the sun does not go down upon our wrath” and lived out is the verse “as much as it is within you to be at peace with all men.” Our own sin is recognized, dealt with, and apologized. This is a continual process…at least in our home… where there are six sinners currently residing.

I’ll share a sample situation, then a sample apology, then explain the reasoning behind the wording in this apology. Tomorrow, I’ll explain “one command” and then in the final blog post in this series, I’ll put all of this together so you’ll have a handy dandy list to use as a reference guide.




Photo Session Turns Trashy

Let’s say that I was taking photos of four beautiful children one Sunday morning on the front porch before leaving for church and the youngest of my precious children who was 2 1/2 years old, was moody and didn’t want to have her picture taken. Oh wait. This is a real life story, documented in our photo album.  So, with permission from said child who we’ll call Kelsey, I continue this example. She was not looking at the camera (disobedient, defiant, rebellious), was screaming (anger, controlling, lack of self-control) and demanded her way (self-centered).  When I went to talk with her,she was even more determined. I told her to go inside. She got up, paused to be stubborn, and then ran inside. Guess what she did next… She kicked over the garbage can.  (That’s where the title above came from. Get it?) I left the garbage can kicked over – she would have to pick up the trash when her heart was right. Cleaning this up with a good attitude would be the “one command” that I’ll be talking about in tomorrow’s blog that would signify the yielded, obedient, happy heart. But, before that came, we had some talking to do. See her stiff shoulders in the second photo? We had a rebellious heart to deal with.

Side note:  I took pictures and scrapbooked events like this to document reality, capture their personalities, the day to day struggles faced, and to be able to remember that being a mother was challenging. Who knew that I’d be using it to blog about one day. (ummm..the word blog wasn’t even a word then.) So many older women seemed to only remember that things were easy. I didn’t feel this way at all, so I wanted to remember snapshots and my feelings so that I could encourage women one day. These photos were never used in unkind ways. In fact, the kids really enjoy seeing the photos and reading the journaling alongside it. Just making sure I’m not promoting belittling a child, or having a mean spirit towards a child at all nor do I think it is right to recording with complaining heart.

The apology.

“I know I was wrong for. I was. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me? “

In the situation above, my child owned many wrong behaviors. Her self-centeredness resulted in anger issues and controlling behavior. The discussion with her in the discipline process could yield many different results, depending on the age, maturity, and awareness of the particular child. The goal is for her to recognize her own sin and come to the place where she understands and can apologize so that all hearts are restored.  Here are a few samples of the apology that might result from the above scenario.

I know I was wrong for screaming. I was mean and selfish. I’m sorry for being ugly to everyone while taking the pictures.  Will you forgive me?

I know I was wrong for being selfish and not taking a picture with the family. I”m sorry. Will you forgive me?

I know I was wrong for wanting my way and not having self-control and kicking over the trash can. Will you forgive me?

You’ll have to use the process mentioned yesterday and the expectation of the words used in the apology will vary according to the child’s age.  If the child is very young, you might have to reach all the conclusions with her and give her the exact words to say in the apology.

“I know I was wrong for…”

This flat out places ownership on the person making the apology.  It shows they don’t think they were wrong; they know they were wrong…and specifically how they wronged the other.  They aren’t placing blame on anyone else or making their own sin seem smaller than the other person’s sin in this situation. “I know I was wrong for getting mad when you asked me to clean up the house. I was rude, selfish,and disrespectful. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

I’m sure we all know people who don’t apologize… or if they do, it is more like, “I’m sorry that you felt that way” or “I’m sorry that hurt you.” WHAT?? That’s really saying the other person owns part of the blame. Think about it. That’s like saying ‘I’m sorry you are such a cry baby that you couldn’t handle the mean spirited way in which I said a hurtful comment to you.”  That’s no apology at all. That’s saying the other person is at fault.

When is the last time you recall apologizing?  Have you been in a disagreement where your words or tone were hurtful and yet you walked away not considering the damage of the heart left behind?

Are you quick to recognize your own sin- not focusing on the other’s wrongs?  Are you mindful about your part in restoring relationships?

If this is not easy for you, if others would say of you “He never apologizes” or “He thinks he’s never wrong” …think about it…you are scarring people. You are creating a dysfunctional home life in which it’s always everyone else’s fault. Most likely you’re controlling. Think about it.

Here’s one way for you to begin apologizing. Next time as soon as you see your sin say, just do it…just start it out by saying the first few words – even if you have to grin from embarrassment-   “I know I was wrong…”  Start there.  You know, “examine the log in your own eye before you see the speck in your brother’s eye.”  Here’s another way- which I highly recommend to introduce this new concept of apologizing into your home.

Train Ahead.

That’s right. Gather the whole gang together – including your spouse – and say, “I just learned this way to apologize that I want our family to adopt.” Explain it to them. You and your spouse, or you as the single parent agree to do this as well. I tell ya, when we first learned this, our now 24 year old son was probably under five years old. I am soooo thankful to have started this with my kids when they were young. However, the people that had the hardest time were my husband and me.  We agreed to apologize like this between each other and to the kids. I’m just telling you, we sheepishly grinned (and still do sometimes) when we used this method because it so pointedly revealed our own sin that we were acknowledging. That can be embarrassing, but it’s good for us. Humility is the opposite of pride.  I will say that each of us knows how to apologize for our own actions.

The exact wording is not the key.

How do your kids do with apologizing and seeing their own sin vs wanting to point out the wrong in the other? There’s work to be done.

Have a vision of your boys being men one day and at work being able to say to an employee, “I know I was wrong for being short with you today and raising my voice. That was hurtful and didn’t take into consideration that you have worked so hard on that project.  I’m sorry. I appreciate you. Will you forgive me?”

Have a vision of your boys being husbands and fathers one day and being able to lead his family with great character and easily able to own his wrong behaviors. Saying to his teen son, “Son, I know I was wrong for not hearing you out and seeing the importance in that decision to you. I was angry, rude, selfish and thinking through only my eyes not yours. I’m sorry. I do want you to share your perspective and your thoughts with me. I love you. WIll you forgive me?” (not “I know I was wrong for not listening, but your ideas are ridiculous, There is no way that’s happening.”)  Do you know what a blessing that will be to his wife and family? That’s integrity…and few actually do this.

Receiving the apology.

 Be sure to teach the receiver to respond with, “Yes, I forgive you” rather than “It’s fine,” “No problem,” or “It’s all good.” 

If apologies are needed on both ends, they exchange apologies and then hug and say, “I love you.”


A little tip here…when you hug your child (or spouse), wait for them to be the ones to release the embrace first. (It’s quite a remarkable tip. Try it.)

Say “I love you.”

After one or all parties have apologized, then hug each other and say “I love you.”

Side note: Do you freely say, “I love you” to your family? If not, do you realize the grip on you?  Perhaps you grew up in a home where it was never spoken to you. No matter your age, why not begin today to tell your family members that you love them.  Ask the Lord to help you to be able to communicate this freely. To help, you may even say, “Daniel, I was reading a blog and it asked if I freely shared ‘I love you’ with my family members, and I thought about how this is me. That I wasn’t told this as a kid and haven’t expressed this to you. I want you to know I love you. I’m going to be intentional to tell you that.”  You might even follow it up by saying, “…you know what else… the same blog talked about apologizing, so I’m trying it out right here on you first. ‘I know I was wrong for not expressing my love for you in words and that I have hurt you. I looooove you. I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Then hug…and say it one more time, “I love you.”

Don’t miss tomorrow’s post on giving one command. This will be the signal that shows if your “discipline session’ was successful.  And, I’ll share the rest of the “trashy temper tantrum” story and the accompanying photos.

If you missed any in this series on “stiff necks and rebellious hearts,” you can click here.

Rhonda typingthisinahotelroomwhileachildsleepssoundly ellis


  1. Mel

    Having the opportunity to work in the Ellis household while in college, I’ve seen this process of apologizing go down in their home. What a precious display of forgiveness this is that ultimately points us back to the cross where Christ forgave an immeasurable amount for our ugliness/ sin.

    Also, thank you for yet another classroom anchor chart idea.

Comments are closed.