Third Breath of Apology ~ Compassion

If you’ve just stumbled upon this post, it will make more sense if you read the summary below, and then Breath 1 and Breath 2.

If you’ve read all this, skip ahead to the photo below.


When someone you love does something that hurts you emotionally, it’s quite common to find yourself caught between two opposing desires:

  • Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
  • Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.

Neither is great.

If you practice revenge you reinforce your own pain since (think about this) emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself.

If you rush to forgive, forget and avoid having an honest conversation with yourself and whoever hurt you, you practice being a coward in the face of your true experience.

A robust reconciliation, based upon an artful apology, avoids both these problems. In my work I’ve found there are five stages or “breaths” you need to take. Why “breaths”?

  1. When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
  2. There are in-breaths and out-breaths.  To stay alive, you need both.  A reconciliation between 2 people that avoids revenge or victim-hood needs both these perspectives.


Breath 3  ~  COMPASSION


Say Sorry  Screen shot 2013-06-12 at 1.01.54 PM

It’s a lost art.

But here’s THE most effective way I’ve found to re-connect to a heartfelt “Sorry!”

Ask yourself, “Am I sad that this person, whom I love, is in a whole heap of pain?”

You’ll probably answer “Yes!”  Yes you are sorry they are in pain.  It’s that sorry you can say out loud.  It’s effectively “I’m so sorry you’re hurting!”

I’m not suggesting you rush in and apologize for everything you said or did that may have been the trigger for this pain (not yet anyway).  Nope – just that you pause to empathize that this person is in the midst of some perfect-storm-of-hot-button-vulnerabilities that were ignited by something you did or didn’t do – unwittingly or otherwise.

This is compassion – right?

You are there with (com) [their] feeling (passion).

Again, this is not about you.

You do not need to show up with guilt, judgment or a repair-kit.

Just compassion.

“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry you felt abandoned by me and jealous and boring and all those awful feelings you just shared with me.”


Screen shot 2013-06-12 at 1.12.15 PMACCUSER

Receive the compassionate “Sorry!”

Listen with your heart.

If the accused has genuinely put themselves in your shoes, and has sought to understand how dreadful you felt, you can most likely be sure that they are genuinely sorry you felt that way.

I can imagine you may not feel all done even after you hear “the magic word” (which isn’t always “Please” ).  You are doing SO well! This is a process, not a magic bullet.  Do your best to resist the urge to say something like  ~

  • “Sorry doesn’t fix it.”
  • “It’s always like this with you – you’re fabulous and then you blow it big time.”
  • “How can I trust you won’t do this again?”

You are still smarting. You need more. You need to know the other person sees that even if he/she understands how much you’re hurting, and even if you both know you’re doing a certain amount of this to yourself (it’s the story you’re telling yourself about the trigger that’s hurting you so much) you still need for this person to get a hold on their words or deeds. Absolutely!

Hang in there.

The Fourth Breath of Apology talks about ownership – who takes responsibility (and is thus accountable for) what; and the Fifth Breath invites some ritual of forgiveness.  You can do this – you’ll both benefit so much if you do.

This is Part 3 of 5.

Check back tomorrow for Fourth Breath of Apology ~ OWNERSHIP

3 thoughts on “Third Breath of Apology ~ Compassion

  1. Pingback: Fourth Breath of Apology ~ Ownership | Gemma Utting ~ Relationship Therapy

  2. Pingback: Fifth Breath of Apology ~ Forgiveness | Gemma Utting ~ Relationship Therapy

  3. Pingback: Five Conversations | Gemma Utting MA, CLC ~ A Skilled, Experienced Therapist & Coach

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