It happens: your emotions are high, you’re feeling stressed, your capacity to exercise wise judgment shrinks and then at a moment of weakness, you say or do something you regret to someone close to you.
Uh oh. The damage is done.
So now how do you recover a friendship once you’ve let some hurtful words slip past your mouth? With these words of humility and grace, underscored by your sense of responsibility for your part in the current state of your friendship.
Making amends quickly after an offense is a basic act of friendship.
What to Write in Your Apology Letter
In your apology note or letter, you not only need to show them that you are aware of what you did, but also:
- express regret for your actions
- accept responsibility,
- find a way to atone, and
- ask for forgiveness.
Taking responsibility for your actions does not mean making excuses for what happened. The other person is not interested in why you offended them. Even if you are not completely to blame, take responsibility anyway. Taking responsibility means admitting what you did wrong, and owning it as your own problem and not theirs to bear. It is also your opportunity to lead your relationship in the direction you desire. Empathize with the person, show them that you can understand why to them your actions or words were offensive or hurtful.
When you offer to make amends, you show that you want to make things right. Sometimes forgiveness is hard to ask for, but if you want to rebuild your relationship, you must ask for what you want. You might offer suggestions of things you can do to make up for the mistake (or for the situation that led you to need to issue an apology).
Personal Apology Letter to a Friend [Example]
For your reference, the following is a sample apology letter to a friend or family member; you may email or write them this letter after having time to process what happened, or feel free to paraphrase the sentiment and send a text immediately after something regretful has happened.
Dear Susan, [Express remorse.] I’m so sorry about the unthinking schedule I made for us at the girls’ get-together last weekend. I know that I previously told you that we would not be spending extended time outdoors, so my inappropriate expectation that you should have been prepared for the weather is inexcusable. I really feel awful for how I responded to your surprise.
[Take responsibility.] My behaviour is inexcusable, especially considering you made the trek at short notice and explicitly asked me what to bring. I can only say that in a time of stress I lost control of my temper and lashed out at you, even though you were clearly only there to support our mutual friend on her happy occasion. You did nothing wrong.
[Make amends.] I am hoping that you will join me for sushi next week at my house. I would love for us to be able to spend some time together, just the two of us.
[Provide assurance that you will not betray.] You can rest assured that I will confirm my information before sharing it with others in the future. I am truly sorry for my poor reaction and behaviour towards you; please forgive me. You won’t have to endure my abuse ever again.
Sorry for Not Being There When Someone Needed You
Use these snippets from Apology Letters as templates for writing your own sincere letter as an olive branch offering to mend fences with your friend. Friendship is a precious thing.
- Best Friend, I feel even more regret now addressing you as my best friend when all I have ever done in your time of need this year was to belittle your intelligence and hurt you with a lack of support in more ways than I wish to admit. I am truly sorry for my words and lack of thoughtfulness. With only regret, I wish to humbly ask for your forgiveness.
- Forgive me — I am writing to ask you for your forgiveness, but I feel I deserve none in the least, considering what a nightmare I have been during your pregnancy. I am sorry. Let me attempt to make it up to you, even a little bit, by picking up your groceries and preparing meals for the next month while I have time off work.
Sorry for Saying the Wrong Thing During a Disagreement
If your thoughtlessness hurt someone you love, wanting forgiveness and to make things right again is only natural. When friends and family are involved, a meaningful and sincere apology is the only way to go.
- Dear Friend, with a broken heart and overwhelming regret, I write to express how deeply sorry I am for having hurt you this morning with my foolish words. What was I thinking?! I wasn’t. Those irresponsible words I can never erase from your memory, nor can I erase from my memory the pain I have caused you. Please forgive me.
- Dear Friend, I am writing this letter of apology to you, with a deep sense of sadness in my heart, wishing to clear the air between us. The argument we had the other day has left me disturbed and carrying bags of regret. I said things that might have hurt you, and I am extremely sorry for putting you through this. I understand your point of view.
- I am so very truly and deeply sorry for all the pain I caused you in the past. It was not your fault. Please accept my heartfelt apology.
Genuine Apology for Emotional Outburst and Hurtful Words
Being at odds with friends and family is an isolating feeling. It feels wrong to be distant from our closest relationships and the people that love us.
- With a shameful heart seeking your approval, I wish to extend my sincere apology for what I said last month. This letter barely touches the least of the many blunders I have committed, but I cling to the hope that somehow, out of your pure heart, you can offer your goodness as an expression of who you are and not because I deserve such generosity of spirit, and forgive my words last month when I heartlessly hurt your feelings.
Apology Letter for Being a Bad Friend in General
- Dear Friend, I want to say I’m sorry. I have been a selfish person and not a friend to you at all. I realize that my words now cannot begin to offer solace when for so long I acted so wrongly toward you. I am truly sorry.
- My world has become a desolate wilderness, I have given up all hope of reconciling with you. I have abused the generosity of your spirit when you have been nothing but honorable and kind. This is to just let you know that I regret my actions and wish to convey how sorry I am. May you enjoy all the good things in this world and know that I wish for you all the best in your life, even as I am no longer in it.
- Sometimes I feel I could appear at the front door of your heart and you would open up to me with the trust and love we enjoyed in the old days… except that I hurt you, and now the burden of regret scares me away from you. Someday I wish to have the chance of appearing before you, not with flowers as I used to, but beg for the flower of your forgiveness. I am truly sorry.
Sorry for an Unfortunate Misunderstanding or Outcome
- I feel a thousand miles away from your heart. I am deeply sorry for ever having hurt you, and I pray that you will find it in your heart to one day forgive me.
- All the beautiful and precious moments we shared together in friendship are now a distant memory — I took your kindness for granted, and refused to see all the ways I had contributed to our current state of estrangement. I could have changed this outcome, and yet I failed at every turn to keep this precious relationship alive. I regret every bit of it. And I am truly sorry.
- I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what I did, for what I didn’t do, and for the sad state our friendship is in now. If I could go back in time and transform the old me that hurt you so much into something better, I would do so in a heartbeat. But seeing as it is only a wish, I ask for the grace of your heart to please forgive me.
Example Apology Letter to a Friend
Dear Michelle, I am so sorry I lashed out at you about your dog’s behaviour. It was uncalled for, and I realize now that I had no business saying what I said. I overreacted and was not thinking clearly that morning. I’d like the opportunity to make it up to you and your pup by hosting the next play date at my house. I promise I’ll relax and enjoy the visit.
I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me. Your friendship means the world to me, and I don’t want to lose what we have. I’ll call you in a couple of days, but if you want to talk sooner, please don’t hesitate to call me sooner. I’m eager to put all of this behind us.
Letter of Regret to a Friend for a Ruined Friendship
- There is an emptiness in my life which I can trace back to the instant I hurt you. I apologize for my wrong decision and I am sorry that I crossed paths with your sweetness and left it worse for having met me. Forgive me for realizing too late that you deserve, and deserved, better.
- Not even I have been able to understand why I would do what I did to you. The more I look back and reflect on the good times we had together and the future we had planned for, the more I regretful I get. I cannot take back what I did, and for that I am forever sorry.
- You probably don’t want to speak to me… and I understand that. I haven’t forgiven myself for what I did. I just want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being such a terrible friend and leaving you at that party with all those strangers after 3am. I should have just been there for you like I always would have.
- To my dear friend who I hurt terribly and miss so badly… I just want to say I’m sincerely sorry for putting you through my immature behaviour. Repeatedly. I didn’t take full responsibility for my dangerous actions and I risked your life in the process. Please forgive me. I don’t expect a return to the friendship we once shared, I just want you to know that I deeply, deeply regret and am sorry for all the pain I caused you that was avoidable.