Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do You Abuse Apologies? The Beauty and Power of 'I'm Sorry'

It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one's heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize. ~ Stephen Covey

I had a recent encounter with someone I'd hurt in the past. As we got to talking, the past naturally came up. In that moment, I felt a strong desire from deep within to apologize for things I did, unintentionally as they were, that might have caused this person pain. It was accepted and there was a relief that flooded through me the moment it exited my lips. It seemed both of us were lighter as a result.

I've never enjoyed saying sorry when I was younger ... and really, in general. I mean, who does really? It's an admission of wrongdoing or at the very least, it's an admission of doing or saying something that has hurt another, intentional or unintentional. It's a feeling of vulnerability, of weakness, yet it could be an expression of love and caring as well.

But I've noticed that there is a difference between abusing apologies — i.e. saying sorry just to appease another or as "a foundation to a future offense" — and saying sorry with a genuine, truly benevolent intention. 

For me, I went from a woman who stubbornly, rarely ever said it to someone who said it all the time, unnecessarily oftentimes, to men in particular.  And those aren't very genuine either. For me, that behavior, which was already rooted in me from my youth years, further developed after I took a backseat to a person who was a much stronger, commanding personality than my previous relationship and at the very opposite end of the spectrum. I would find myself apologizing for speaking my mind or emotions, feelings about things, my anger or hurt, my pain or confusion. 

And when that person would apologize to me, it was often either a way to rein me back in or it was disingenuous. I noticed this pattern continue with other people I've encountered as well and I know I've done my fair share of disingenuous apologizing. 

The point being, there is beauty and power in an apology, but it has to come from within ... you have to BE the apology. It has to show in your actions. My counselor once put it perfectly: Look at a person's actions, not their words.

I came across this article that really hit home for me: A Message to Women From a Man: You Are Not 'Crazy'

And the truth is, emotional manipulation and I go way back, to my teen years really ... and the things I believed or "fell for," as a relatively naive girl, which carried on to my adulthood. 

Talking to my best friend, we got on the subject of past hurts, loves, heartbreaks. And maybe it was because of how I felt after this recent apology of mine, but I realized how much I desired that from those who have hurt me. How, even now — having forgiven them their hurts as much as I've been able to — how much lighter I would feel inside on some level if someone said, 'Cassandra, you were never crazy for feeling how you felt, it was completely understandable, reasonable and I'm sorry for any hurt I caused you.' 

The way that I have in the past, not with all of them, but with most.  In some ways, it'd feel like releasing a breath I've been holding forever.

Now, while I can't expect such things, I CAN take those feelings and apply them to my own behavior in the future. Perhaps such behavior will be mirrored back some day. 

Because the truth is, apologies only get people so far. And just like the term "love" is overused in my opinion, so are apologies. But when a person is different inside than they once were, has become self aware enough to truly see themselves from another's perspective, that is often the key to a genuine request for forgiveness, to a "real" apology.

As I've said before, sometimes you don't realize the weights you carry around until you let them go ... and sometimes just finding forgiveness in your heart or asking it of another is all the release valve you needed.

Try it. Your heart will thank you.



1 comment:

  1. Apologies are overused, yes. There is such a pronounced difference between an "appeasing" apology and a genuine apology. I have noticed that when I give a true deep-from-within apology that I fee so much better and I feel as though a huge weight is off of my shoulders.