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Gary Chapman Shares his Thoughts on
The Five Languages of Apology

Many of us are familiar with Gary Chapman’s love languages. We’ve tried to identify our own, our spouses, our children’s, and use that knowledge to build better relationships. What happens when we don’t speak in the language the other person needs to hear? What do we do in order to keep moving toward healthy, affirming relationships? Research done by Dr. Chapman and ACC’s own Dr. Jennifer Thomas shows that individuals also hear and express words and gestures of apology in different languages..

“Jennifer Thomas approached me several years ago. She had developed the idea of apology languages and was considering writing a magazine article,” Gary remembered. “The concept really resonated with my personal experience as a counselor. I suggested thinking bigger and so began our 3 years of working together on The Five Languages of Apology.”

With the availability of mass media, we have seen public figures who never admit wrongdoing as well as those who make public confessions. Is apologizing any harder today? “People are imperfect so I have a sense that it’s always been hard for a person to apologize,” Chapman said. “Anytime there’s an offense, it creates an emotional barrier in a relationship. It takes an apology to remove that barrier. A person may ‘release’ another with one-sided forgiveness but the barrier still sits there. If there was a relationship, it is not restored.”

Although many of Dr. Chapman’s previous books focus on marriage, this one is unique in that apologies are necessary in all human relationships. One chapter, for example, is devoted to apologies in the workplace. “Many businesses have written policies for how to deal with customers, but not many actually train employees in how to make apologies. In addition to dealing with customers,” stated Chapman, “I believe if department groups could understand apology languages, both their own and their fellow employees, it would make work relationships more pleasant and successful.” The authors also sight examples of how this concept carries over into the medical community and the relationship between patients and their doctors.

Chapman went on to say that perhaps the chapter about which he is most excited is “Teaching Your Child to Apologize.” “I believe what is taught or modeled in the family has much to do with our behavior as adults. If parents teach their children to accept responsibility and that every behavior affects other people, it will help them to understand that apology is a necessary part of our relationships.”

One of the people we may find hardest to forgive is ourselves. Gary shared that people tend to beat up on themselves when they fail. “There is an estrangement between the ideal self and the real self which causes a lot of internal pain. There is inner discord because the person thought they were in a different place personally, emotionally, or spiritually.” Forgiving ourselves releases a person from bondage to past failures in order to make the most of the future.

If we look at Scripture, the apology model is clear. “Our offenses have separated us from God. His desire is for reconciliation through our confession and His forgiveness. All five of the apology languages are demonstrated in Scripture. In Luke, for example, Zacchaeus makes restitution. In Psalm 51, David accepts responsibility, repents, and requests forgiveness.”

In concluding, Dr. Chapman spoke about his hope for The Five Languages of Apology.
“Reconciliation is a human need we all have. In counseling, therapists work with broken people. Often both the offended and the offender are hurting. If counselors can help clients speak and hear the appropriate apology language, I believe it will have far-reaching impact on relationships of all types.” Healing and sustaining vital relationships is at the heart of this exciting new book.

©2006 Associates in Christian Counseling, all rights reserved.

Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of The New York Times best-selling The
Five Love Languages book series. He is the director of Marriage & Family
Consultants, Inc., travels around the world presenting seminars, and his radio
program is heard on over 100 stations. He and his wife, Karolyn, live in
Winston-Salem where he is Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church.