Family, spouses, friends, co-workers and strangers have all been hurt by us at some point. Sometimes we have a bad day and we say hostile words we don’t mean, but other times the actions and phrases we say can do severe damage to our loved ones. Often, it warrants a very sincere and honest apology to heal the deep wounds. People seem to be confused on how to go about apologies and are even nervous to make them. Unfortunately, although making an apology is never easy, it can be a humbling experience in order to repair a relationship.
At first, we might believe the conflict was not our fault or somehow the poor behavior we inflicted was warranted. Rest assured in my own experience, both parties were wrong at some point or another. There is never a case where one person is right and the other person is wrong. Acknowledgment of the mistreatment and self reflection are key pieces of starting the apology process. If there is no reflection on what could have been done to avoid the conflict it could indicate there may be some unresolved anger to work through before considering an apology.
There have been two cases of losing friendships for me in the past year. While I have reflected on how I could have been a better friend, I still have yet to make an honest apology. Both friendships ended in a passive aggressive manner through unanswered texts. I have a mere speculation as to why the friendships disintegrated. One friendship ended because I suspect my expressed concerns over her boyfriend were unwelcome. The other friendship I inadvertently used her as an emotional dumping ground. Regretfully, I over shared my problems when she was also going through her own hardships. One of the reasons why I have not apologized is because of the fear of dead silence I may receive at my attempted communication. It would also mean a very sad reminder of just how hurtful I was to my former friends. I would not expect them to take me back as a friend again and make them feel obligated to do so.
Successful apologies hinder on accepting the blame for the trespasses. Whether or not you had a bad day, or an out of line action hurt a loved one, an apology is required unconditionally. I have not only been a perpetrator in unkind and mean actions, but I have also been on the receiving end. The act of insincerity is very common in the world of apologizing. “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “Can we just move on” are unacceptable ways to repair a relationship or past hurts. If the person who was hurt truly feels the damage caused is irreparable, it is a significant clue a heartfelt apology is in order. The apology should not contain any excuses as to why you were offensive or rotten. One must be willing to validate the person’s feelings that they were indeed hurt. The ability to acknowledge you hurt someone is not only mature, but it lessens the chances you will do it again.
There are some cases where there are people who continue not only to cause hurt, but they also refuse to admit what they have done wrong. Extreme caution is recommended if there is a possibility of considering a reconciliation with these individuals. There may even be an apology given but if the person continues to cause serious issues, you may want to examine their actions. For repeat offenders, there is no moral obligation to accept the apology and “move on”. A failure to recognize how the actions hurt others leads me to question whether or not they are suffering from narcissism or some other Cluster B personality disorder. In some highly toxic situations, it might be wise to reconsider allowing these people into your life again.
How much time has gone by since the initial conflict is also a critical factor when initiating an apology. Unfortunately, many people hold on to grudges and stop talking for many years. Some people may have even forgotten about what they were so mad about. There are times where forgiveness and grace is warranted. Family members and friends who miss and truly love each other should attempt to move on from past hurts even after a number of years without speaking. A massive apology and ruminating about of all the wrong doings is not necessarily needed especially if the parties have both moved on emotionally and are willing to rectify the relationship. A mutual agreement of trying harder and communicating in a productive and positive manner to avoid future conflicts is appropriate in cases where so much time has gone by since the original disagreement.
Reaching out to apologize can be difficult and there are many ways we can try to appropriately rectify wrong doing. The best way to realize if you are ready to apologize is to ask yourself if you can admit you have done something wrong. Willfulness to validate the person’s feelings you hurt is also necessary to make amends. The apology should be made face to face so the person can determine the level of sincerity. An initial call, email or text should preface the intentions for an apology. The communication must state you would like to meet them at a time and place of their convenience. Never use a social gathering as an attempt to confront a person with your apology as it takes away from the special event. It may even lead to more unnecessary drama.
Apologies that fail to be made can cause a lifetime of resentment. Some people may agree to “move on” for the sake of maintaining peace but hold onto mistrust and negative feelings over the unresolved conflict. They most likely will begin to distance themselves from you and the relationship will inevitably dissipate. Sincerity, self reflection and the ability to admit the actions and words hurt your loved ones are essential in starting the apology process. I have found in my own personal experiences making apologies is not only healing spiritually, it can also make your relationships stronger. It’s a wonderful opportunity to move on from the past hurts as life is just way too short to hold on to negative energy.