Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hard to Say “I’m Sorry”

Two words that are hard for people to say and sometimes even hard to hear “I’m sorry.” Admitting that you made a mistake, hurt someone’s feelings or caused in some way hurt or pain, can be difficult, but it can be done. In fact, sometimes it needs to be done. It’s difficult to move forward from hurt to healing or from pain to positivity without an apology of some sort.

I know people who have waited for decades to hear that priceless phrase. Yet, their satisfaction has been denied. On the other hand, I know people who carry the guilt that goes with an unsaid apology, knowing what needs to be said but not knowing how to say it or even wear to begin.

If you are the one who needs to apologize, there are a few questions you need to ask first. For one, are you truly apologetic for what you’ve done? Unless you genuinely want to right a wrong or correct your actions, you shouldn’t apologize. An apology born out of what you think you should do and not out of what you feel needs to be done is not an apology. For example, if you don’t believe you are wrong but someone else suggests that you are and that an apology is in order, then don’t apologize.

A second question would be, “Do you know what you are apologizing for?” A man comes home from work and says to his wife, “I’m sorry.” She asks what he’s sorry for. He responds, “I don’t know but I’m sure I’ve done something I should apologize for.” In most cases, he’s just made a bad situation worse. Be clear and specific about what was done and why you are offering an apology. Blanket apologies do not work.

Now, if you are the one who feels deserving of an apology, there are two things I want you to know.

The first is simple to say and hard to hear (or read in this case). Your apology may never come. Some people wait a lifetime for an apology and never get it. You can’t wait for an apology to give you permission to move on. You cannot tie your healing to something that unpredictable. Find another way. Look for other means of getting what you need to go forward.

Finally, you can accept an apology without accepting the behavior or the person. An abusive man will apologize and might even be truly sorry. When caught in a lie, the habitual liar will usually apologize but that doesn’t mean they won’t do the same thing again. You can accept that apology and refuse to accept the behavior or the relationship. Your well-being and your health – physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental – comes first. Accept an apology but don’t allow it to be the key that unlocks the door to future abuse, mistreatment and hurt.

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