I had an eye-opening experience recently with a flooring company that installed wood flooring on our stairs. We were not pleased with their first effort to install our flooring and insisted they come back and repair the mistakes and install it properly. Both the first, and the second installation attempt took place while we were out of town (we were unable to walk on the stairs until they dried). So, after the second attempt at installing and varnishing our new flooring, we were still not pleased and waited for seven days thinking they would at least follow-up with us to see if we were satisfied. They did not. This led me to send a short, but meaningful email to both the salesperson, who we had dealt with the entire time, and the installation coordinator, who had promised constant contact both while we were out of town and when we returned.
My email simply stated that I was disappointed in their service – especially in their lack of communication and customer service. I listed 2-3 different things that were not repaired like we had asked, and then closed my email thanking them for their time. Within fifteen minutes I had a very lengthy email back from our salesperson.
I honestly have no way to make that email brief because it went on, and on, and on. But, I will try to give you highlights to make my point because this email is the lesson I wanted to share. The email went something like this:
- Apology for lack of communication
- An entire paragraph detailing his prostate cancer
- Another paragraph telling a story of his leg injury that prevented him from getting prostate surgery
- Several sentences that said something like, “You are right – I shouldn’t be so selfish thinking about my own health when I should have been focused on your floor.”
- Several sentences blaming the installation scheduler
- And on, and on, and on . . .
I was truly aghast. And so was my husband. It was the most passive-aggressive email I had ever read. And, it said, without saying in words, that he was really NOT sorry about his actions. And even went further to say, without using direct words, that I was being the selfish one to expect him to neglect his health to focus on my floor. As sad as I was that he was going through all of that, it really had no bearing on the poor work and customer service I had received. It was truly unrelated and should not have even been part of the conversation.
While discussing this with my husband, we began talking about what it really means to be “sorry” for your actions. As a Christian, I like to use the word “repentant” because it’s stronger and literally means to “go in the other direction.” If you repent, you stop the bad behavior, turn around, and go in the opposite direction (the direction of GOOD). If you are truly “sorry” or “repentant” for your actions, you don’t follow an apology with excuses. And you certainly don’t follow-up an apology with a story or situation that makes the offended party feel sorry for you or guilty for calling on your behavior. The bottom line is this – if you mess up, and you are truly sorry, own it! The circumstances around it are irrelevant. If you’re really sorry, then apologize and mean it.
This is critical in marriage because humbling ourselves to truly repent to our spouse can be difficult. Being so tremendously close to your spouse means that you are more vulnerable and also more defensive. But, at the end of the day, we all screw up, say things we don’t mean, do things we wish we didn’t, and we need to own it and apologize. Friends, just do it in earnest. Be real. No need for excuses. Trust me – it means so much more that way.