Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Apologies

There are people walking around this earth waiting for two words to be spoken to them so that they can move on from some point in time. They have stressed, hurt, and mourned because someone wasn't big enough to realize that they were wrong and strong enough to utter the words, "I'm sorry." Most of us have these little splinters on our souls...and every so often someone has so many that the infection from the wound can completely poison their system.

We all have been on both sides of this, by the way. I hardly know anyone who hasn't been trotted up somewhere by their mother to apologize for doing something silly when we were young or who stood there waiting for the words to be delivered. Words that we knew we didn't mean because kids aren't wired to see any further down the road than the next week. Or words that someone spoke to us but we knew that they were under coercion and we doubted that anything would really change. Yes, this was back before parents started exonerating their children of all personal responsibility.

But the older we get, the more difficult it seems to be to stand up and be on either side. We sweep our hurts under the rug or minimize our role in whatever it was by justifying that our honesty was necessary. We act like the other person deserved it, or remembered everything that the individual did against us to justify our actions and somehow balance the scales.

Recently, someone I knew received an apology. It was warranted, and it was good for this person to hear it. However, when the apology finally came...the focus was primarily on the shortcomings of the person being apologized to rather than the less than impressive actions of the person delivering the apology. I found this less than satisfactory (to say the least) when I heard about it.

Sometimes we are hurt in ways that the person delivering the pain cannot fully comprehend. Words spoken to us as children tend to get into our hearts and turn into a bitter harvest. No matter how many positive seeds of faith, encouragement, or love are planted, the bitterness seems to overwhelm it all. I know grown women today that believe things about themselves because a boy in their class in the 7th grade told them that it was so. I don't know about you, but I don't know many boys who have good sense at that age.

Other times, we are strangely able to deflect the negativity that someone means toward us by either being ignorant of their true intentions or by not caring about their opinion. Someone may try to make life difficult for us, but just like the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote...it ends up flattening them on the highway of life instead.

I know that in my life, I'd like to take back a lot of words I said, a ton of the "attitude" that I showered the adults in my life with, and my inability to do the right thing sometimes when I knew I should simply out of fear. I'd like to apologize for not taking advantage of the opportunities I had, not appreciating everything that others sacrificed to give me, and just not being a very nice person at times.

Perhaps for me, the reason that I am grateful for so many of the good things in my life is that I have regrets about the words of apology that I didn't speak. Maybe I realized that people loved me in spite of my awfulness, and that gave me the courage to spread my wings. Or perhaps I now understand that in spite of our best efforts, there are going to be those times when we just cannot avoid being wrong. We ARE human, after all.

Two little words that can free people are "I'm sorry." We shouldn't overuse them but sometimes we do. I know that if I bump into someone I say "Sorry!" without thinking. Perhaps "Pardon me." would be more appropriate.

An apology can allow a wound to be cleaned out and healed over. It offers us an opportunity to start over and give the negativity and pain a natural exit. The importance cannot be glossed over in this day and time...when we consider ourselves so busy that we cannot be bothered with everyone else's feelings and emotions.

Try to remember that letting go of past hurts takes that person's power over you away. Failing to forgive means that they have you imprisoned in a cell of sorts. I don't know about you, but I really don't want anyone who has hurt me to have that kind of power over me. So, even if they haven't asked me to forgive them...I probably already have.

I'll admit that it isn't always pretty.

And those of you failing to apologize because you cannot find the words, it has been too long, or you think it doesn't matter...know that it is never too late to show someone that you think enough of them to try to make it right.

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