How to Apologize

One of the mistakes we are prone to make when challenged by parents, staff, or board members is to become defensive.  This is an unfortunate tendency of fallen humans dating back to the Garden of Eden.  Our sinful pride and our fragile self-images propel us to make excuses, to explain away, or to protect ourselves. 

While it is right to defend ourselves against false accusations and misinformation, too often we become defensive rather than listening to what may be valid criticism of ourselves or of our schools.  Young teachers and administrators are particularly prone to make the mistake of being defensive, which inevitably damages their credibility.

When wrong—simply admit it, correct the problem, and move on.  A major U.S. company recently made a very big mistake with its customers.  Rather than ignoring the mistake or attempting to explain it away, the CEO made an unequivocal public apology:

This is an apology for the way we previously handled …  Our ’solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles. It is wholly self-inflicted, and we deserve the criticism we’ve received. We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.

How refreshing!  This is an apology that customers appreciate and that reinforces loyalty.  It is also professional, honest, and mature.

When you make a mistake in your leadership or the school has failed in living up to its high principles and mission—admit it.  In biblical language—confess and repent.  You’ll be surprised what doing so will do for you, your leadership, and your school!