The two best words, albeit the hardest ones to say, are “I’m sorry.” It’s difficult to let the two words stand on their own. The temptation is to offer an explanation or to attempt to justify one’s actions.
Both the explanation and the justification are unnecessary. They only undercut the apology being given. It’s almost impossible to explain or to justify without casting blame on another person or the circumstances. The apology then becomes yet another piece of the tawdry action already set in motion.
No, for “I’m sorry” to remain the two best words, they have to be offered without excuses. They have to be followed by an admission of guilt and wrongdoing. They should then be followed by “Please forgive me.” Those three words, in conjunction with the other two, clear the conscience and, in some cases, restore relationships.
Those words also allow a person to move forward and to act differently. The point of an apology is not to convince the wronged person of the sincerity of the apology. It isn’t to force that person to apologize for whatever wrong he or she may have done. An apology is an outward act that signifies an internal change. It reminds the person making the apology that he or she is responsible for oneself, one’s words, and one’s actions and that that person has dedicated himself or herself to living differently in the future.