Those “OMIF” moments (and the gift of forgiveness)!

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I‘m deeply sorry for what I did. It was wrong. I made a terrible mistake. It will never happen again. My deepest apologies for what I did.”


I start out by putting in a plug for “forgiveness,” arguably a lost art in times like these; times of more and more instances of “OMIF (Opening Mouth, Inserting Foot) and the “gotcha” finger-pointing, shaming, embarrassment, guilt and apologies (the latter increasingly in public before a wide-eyed media) that typically trails in the aftermath.

My second plug is for Rick Brenner, Chaco Creek Consulting, who for years has been ahead of the game in topics he covers in his newsletter. Given my interest in addressing the subject of “forgiveness” after apologies for an OMIF moment, I decided to check out what Brenner had to say on the topic.


Yep, he addressed this in 2003 in his “Demanding Forgiveness.”

So my narrative today is aimed at the OMIF “apologizers” and the potential “forgivers among us. Inarguably, each one us have been – or could very well – find ourselves in either or both categories, and that includes yours truly. So what follows are Brenner’s tips for making effective apologies and, after each one, my tips for forgivers:

Ask for permission.It’s possible that your intended recipient isn’t willing or ready to receive an apology. Ask for permission. Realize that you are asking for the gift of receiving your apology.

Forgiver: First empathize with him. Is forgiveness what you’d want after yourOMIF moment? If your answer is yes, why not grant him such permission?

Expect nothing….Apologies must be unconditional. Expectations of reciprocity, mutual concession, or forgiveness undermine your apology. Often expectations are experienced as demands.

Forgiver: Despite any hurt that you may be experiencing at the time, try not to demand an apology. Chances are the OMIFer is embarrassed by the behavior so demanding an apology may get you one, however one lacking in sincerity.

Apologize for mistakes, not intentions…..Apologizing for accidents can help; apologizing for something done intentionally, and which you’d likely do again in similar circumstances, isn’t likely to work. Such apologies seem insincere, and often are.

Forgiver: Ask yourself: “Is this a one-time thing, or is it a pattern of behavior?” If the former, be quick to forgive and move on.

Offer no excuses….When we consider ourselves responsible for the pain of others, we sometimes say, “I didn’t mean to,” or, “That was not my intention.” Any assurances that their pain wasn’t a primary objective of your actions are in vain. Instead, apologize for your negligence, or your thoughtlessness.

Forgiver: Expect and understand why excuses may come. That’s natural. Don’t spend a lot of time questioning intent. Instead, if the apology appears to be sincere, be willing to forgive a behavior that’s out of the norm.

Acknowledge pain….Acknowledge their pain, and your inability to grasp it fully. And acknowledge your own pain. Of course, sincerity is required.

Forgiver: Acknowledge the pain that she is experiencing at the moment by saying it. Never assume that the person truly knows what he/she is apologizing for. Thus, you may have to explain it to them and get them to see the impact.

Take full responsibilityAcknowledge that you are 100% responsible for your own actions, which you now regret. Allocating responsibility to others defeats the purpose of the apology, especially when you allocate some of it to the person you’re apologizing to.

Forgiver: If he accepts full responsibility, thank him for that. If he does not take responsibility, be willing to convey, respectfully yet firmly, you are not able to forgive until that occurs.

Tell what you’ve learned….If you’ve learned something from the incident, consider revealing it. Knowing that you’re less likely to repeat your transgression can be a comfort.

Forgiver: Thank her for the revelation and share what you learned from the incident, for example, your capacity to empathize and to forgive.

Concludes Brenner, “whatever the form of your apology, think carefully before asking for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness can seem like a demand, and that compounds your offense. Only forgiveness freely given has true meaning.”

Concludes yours truly, first, understand that OMIFs can destroy lives and shatter careers.

Second, accept that the power to forgive resides primarily in the hands of the potential forgiver. Thus, if someone bears his soul after a one time OMIF moment, a lapse in judgment, and issues a sincere gift of an apology, try handing them back a much larger gift…

….the gift of forgiveness!


©Terry Howard is an award-winning writer, story-teller, coach and trainer who resides in Douglasville, Georgia. He can be reached at

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