My father was not a man to say “I’m sorry.” Apologies were for the weak. Strong men never backed down.
To apologize is to be willing to admit you made a mistake. Hurt someone. Caused harm. Apologies are a way of acknowledging the other person matters to you. That you see that what you did does not sit well with them. And, it’s a way to acknowledge your own humanness.
The challenge of being unable to apologize is, it makes the need to be perfect stronger.
When you are driven by the need to ‘be perfect’, it is impossible to accept you might have made a mistake or hurt someone.
The drive for perfection is a killer of intimacy. No one can get through this life without causing someone else harm. We are human. Humans make mistakes. Though our intention may be not to hurt someone, we cannot control, nor know, how someone else will receive our truth. And sometimes, in emotionally charged moments, we do not deliver our truth with grace and ease. We serve it up fully loaded, expecting the other to be able to swallow it in one easy bite. Instead, all it does is cause them indigestion.
Apologies have impact. They are a way of telling someone you unintentionally, or intentionally, hurt that they matter to you. That you see by their reaction to whatever you did, that you caused them pain. And in your apology you are telling them that. “I see you and you matter to me more than standing my ground matters to me.”
You are telling them that they are more important than the momentary thrill of revenge, or getting even or whatever you received from your actions, gave you.
Apology is easy, once you get over yourself.
Next time you do something you can see caused someone harm, let go of your desire to be right and try this instead:
- Take a breath. Now, ask yourself. “What’s the story I’m telling myself about this situation? Am I justifying my ‘rightness’? Am I building a case against them so I don’t have to look at me?”
- Take another breath. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if I acknowledge where I was at in this situation was not as altruistic or ‘right’ as I make it out to be? What if I let go of being right and moved instead into being in relationship? What would I do differently?
- Take another breath. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to let go of my position to make room for both our positions in this conversation? Am I willing to see that my being right makes them wrong — And that is a lose/lose.”
- Keep breathing. Now, ask yourself, “What am I willing to do to create relationship? What can I do to allow both of us to cross from separate sides to common ground?
- Big, deep slow breath. Now, ask yourself, “Am I the problem here? Is my reluctance to admit what I did to create this situation, the reason the situation is continuing to fester? Am I willing to think with my heart and give my ego a break? Am I willing to acknowledge, I am human.”
If the answers to Question 5 are anything other than ‘yes’, begin at the beginning again. If you did answer ‘yes’, then an apology is the shortest distance between two hearts. Apologies given from a place of acknowledging your role in creating the situation, create space for forgiveness, and relationship, to blossom.
And let’s be careful here. An apology is not about saying, “I’m sorry I made you feel _________________.” That’s like saying, “I was right to do what I did. It’s your bad you’re feeling that way. So sorry.”
An apology is about acknowledging that what you did caused someone else harm and you honestly want to fix it. As in, “I see that what I did by_________________ hurt you. I apologize. I do not want to hurt you. I value you and want to be in relationship with you. I want to cross this bridge so we can be together on the same side. Is there something I can do to help fix this?”
Yesterday, C.C. my beloved did something that irritated me. He did not do it intentionally. In fact, what he did was not all that critical and was easily fixed. Me. I wanted to make it a federal case. I wanted to rub salt into the wound of what I judged to be his thoughtlessness. (I was tired okay?)
Here’s the thing. My being tired does not give me the right to be rude or inconsiderate or to sit in judgement.
C.C. is a wise man. He let my bad behaviour go and asked me for a hug.
It takes a lot of work to carry a judgement or grudge across a bridge when the one you love is holding you safely in their embrace.
Apologies build bridges. They create connection. They ease tension and, as my eldest daughter explained it once, apologies replace pain with Love. In the aftermath of a relationship with a man who hurt all of us badly, when I apologized for what I did in that relationship to cause them pain and fear, the river of pain separating us kept getting replaced with love. Eventually, the pain flowed away and all that was left was love.
I like a world where no matter what happens, all that is present is Love.