Thursday, August 13, 2015

Apologies

I have done a great deal of thinking {and praying} about apologies. I am still learning how to apologize better through apologies I wish I were getting from other people. Or apologies I never got, but so desperately want.



In a perfect world, when someone was wronged, the person who hurt them would immediately "get it", apologize, and it would be over. But that's not how it usually works, is it?

Great apologies need {at least} 6 parts:

1) Making a genuine effort to listen and understand.
2) Acknowledging pain in the person who was wronged.
3) Accepting responsibility in causing the pain.
4) Expressing genuine regret.
5) Making it right.
6) An immediate change in behavior moving forward.

Instead, we can receive a grade-school-level "sorry" with a crinkled brow that lets the hurt party know that the other party isn't sorry for what they did at all. They're sorry they got caught. Or they're sorry they have to be apologizing.

Sometimes we get what sounds like a sincere apology, but nothing changes.

Sometimes we get an "I'm sorry but you…" that sounds so little like an apology it's almost like it wasn't one {it wasn't, by the way.}

Sometimes we don't get an apology at all. We just get anger and defensiveness. We just get an "I'm not apologizing when I didn't do anything wrong."

Sometimes we get one of these sorry attempts for an apology and then we get a "What do you want from me?! I already apologized!"

Or sometimes, we just hear radio silence. Nothing. Nada.



We are taught as children that we should apologize when we cut in line or shove someone at recess. We are also taught that we are owed an apology if someone cuts in front of us or if we get shoved at recess. It's a noble thing to teach to kids. It teaches them fairness and responsibility. But here's the problem: as we grow up, we realize the world is neither fair nor responsible. At least, not all the time. {I am in no way advocating that you shouldn't teach your kids to apologize. After all, no one wants to be friends with that guy!} But when there is no longer a school teacher around to ensure that we get that apology, we still expect it.

But we aren't taught to say "she started it!" That we did all on our own, much to the dismay of our teachers just trying to get through their day. That whole "she started it!" idea carries over into adulthood. The problem is that there is no teacher standing there to say "I don't care who started it!"

Sidenote: I'm an over apologizer. I apologize when I cut someone off with my shopping buggy. I apologize when I get the hiccups. I apologize when the cookies I baked from scratch are too brown.   So I grew to expect apologies the way I would give them.

So why do we want apologies so badly? TO FEEL VALIDATED. We want someone to say "I see your pain and I wish I hadn't put it there." We want to be heard. So an apology is the greatest way to tell someone "I hear you." And a lack of an apology feels like rejection. It feels like injustice. It feels like the pain is magnified.

So we wait. And we wait. And we wait. We want to be understood. We want to be heard. We want things to be fair.

But what if we don't ever get it? If you keep waiting for an apology, that pain will feel more and more magnified until it's excruciating and unbearable. You'll feel more misunderstood. More victimized. More rejected. More alone.

But you know what I've learned? If you don't ever get that apology, that is not to say you don't deserve one. It is NOT a reflection of your worth. It is a reflection of that other person's shortcomings. So if you were lied to and you never got an apology, THAT IS AN INDICTMENT OF THEMNOT OF YOU. If you were abused, and your abuser continues to deny it, they are telling you who THEY ARE. NOT YOU. If you were raped and your rapist showed no remorse or empathy, it is a reflection of THEIR CHARACTER. NOT YOURS. If other people don't believe your story and side against you, or the perpetrator in your life was never brought to justice, IT DOESN'T MEAN YOUR PAIN ISN'T VALID.

While you wait for that apology, you're letting that person hurt you over & over again. They, not you, are controlling whether or not you ever get to move forward. And they don't care if you move forward. So stop letting them make that decision for you.

The direction of your life should not be contingent on someone else's faults. So stop thinking about the fact that you're owed an apology because it's unfair not to get one. Stop focusing on the injustice. Stop having imaginary conversations in your head where you get that apology. You can't outsource your path to healing to someone who doesn't care about it and expect anything to change. You can't go from being a victim to triumph by laying the responsibility in someone else's hands.

Go find peace for yourself.

But how? Realize that they aren't capable of healing you. They're not even capable of healing themselves. Forgive them anyway. This doesn't mean that you have to pursue a relationship of any kind with them, but it does mean that you forgive the debt of the owed apology.

Forgiveness doesn't excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents that behavior from shattering your heart, your dreams, and your world.

Forgiveness, then, it is not a weakness. It is a strength.

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