I just finished reading a great piece on apologies in the New York Times. The writer truly made me stop and think.
I need to apologize to a friend. I know I do but am not sure if the friend is willing to listen or not. I did something that caused a huge rift between the two of us and I do not like the space that I have received from this rift. I am not sure if the friend does or not but I need to find out as I don’t like myself because of the problem.
I will say that the author talks about the good essentials of an apology:
an acknowledgment of the fault or offense, regret for it and responsibility for it — and, if possible, a way to fix the problem, said Holly Weeks, a communications consultant and author of “Failure to Communicate: How Conversations Go Wrong and What You Can Do to Right Them” (Harvard Business Press, 2008).
While I have acknowledge the offense, I am not sure if the person who was offended thinks I take responsibility for it or if that person thinks I have regret for it. I have deep regrets for the entire offense – both the part that I did and the results of that action. I own my actions so am totally responsible for this and the pain I feel.
I want to ask this friend for forgiveness. I don’t want the friend to totally forget but to know that I am working on being a better person. I am working on fixing what caused me to commit the offense to start with.
I am not perfect nor strong. I need to be reminded occasionally of my imperfections.
Have you ever had to apologize when you didn’t think the other party wanted to hear it? Have you ever had to apologize and not known if it would be accepted? Do you think apologizing is the same as asking for forgiveness?
18 thoughts on “Apologies”
Yesterday me and the missus EACH made one big stupid and nasty mistake, and there were very sincere apologies once the air cleared and that is what we like in each other: you understand that the other can make a mistake and its no big deal, and we move on happily. Forgiveness.
(what mistakes you ask? she blamed me quite sharply for not getting a receipt for a mailed package and I had to remind her SHE had mailed it, and later I shut the door on the paw of the little beagle)
Ah, Gary! I cannot believe the two of you could ever stay mad at one another.
with regard to the questions at the end…
the key thing with apologies is that for them to be effective, they have to be delivered to someone who is willing to forgive. that’s what makes it tough when forced to make one to someone who does not want to hear it.
i do not think that apologizing is the same thing as asking for forgiveness unless the goal of apologizing is to gain forgiveness.
with regard to you…
good luck with your apology, my friend. you may not be perfect, but you’re extremely thoughtful, articulate, and sweet. (said the girls’ guy)
Such a tricky situation, Nicki. Of course I wish that if the party in question was able to hear these words from you, then he would accept your apology and help pave the way for your friendship to recover. But, as JCO noted, if his ears and heart aren’t open, your apology may fall on deaf and cold organs.
I once wronged a friend – a mild offense, but one she took very personally – and she never forgave me. She wouldn’t return calls, letters, e-mails. I still think of her sometimes, and regret the choice I made. But mostly I’ve forgotten after eventually forgiving myself.
That would be my advice to you: if your friend can’t or won’t forgive you, consider forgiving yourself.
Kristen – Ronna said something similar. Extend myself some grace. We all fall. No one is perfect.
I have been on the other side of this. I had a friend cross a line that altered our friendship forever. It has been very painful, but my minister gave me the advice that when she reached a point where she was able to apologize for her action (it was done publicly so was well known in our congregation) I should be open to accepting it.
Due to the nature of the offense, we will never again be close friends, but someday we may be able to have a polite conversation again. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t see any problem with her action and has no remorse.
I wish you luck with your apology.
Thanks, Charlotte, for your wishes and for sharing!
I believe that apologizing is done to make things all right with ourselves – we should really not be able to rest until we do our best to make things right once we’ve identified a wrong.
But we can’t make someone accept an apology or offer forgiveness. 12-step programs offer amazing insights into this process. There’s no grovelling, no repeated apologies. What happens is that with the apology something should shift inside of us to make us unable to ever do that hurtful thing we did again. Whether things can ever truly be mended is a different issue.
Linda – you are right. The mending is a different issue.
Even if it falls on deaf ears and a closed heart, I’d urge you to make the apology, because it will ease YOUR pain. There’s been a rift between my sister-in-law and myself (both of us did something wrong) and I have apologized twice for my hand in the quarrel.
Both times, she simply vents her anger again, does not acknowledge her own wrongdoing, and basically kicks me in the ass.
While this wouldn’t *sound* like something that would ease my pain, it did, because I’ve done all that I could do on my part. The ball is in her court. There’s a great sense of relief, knowing that. I’m free now.
Good luck, Nicki. I hope you let us know what you decide and how things go. (((hugs)))
Thanks, TKW. This problem is all on me. I do recognize that and regret it terribly.
I think apologizing is an art form. There are no easy rules to follow, no instruction manual to turn to. I think this topic is so important to explore and applaud you for doing so here. Apologizing is, at heart, acknowledging flaws and embracing imperfection. And these aren’t uncomplicated things to do. The Art of Apology… Am now pondering a post. Like all art, I think there is a strong subjective element…
I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on this, Aidan. You are right that apologizing is acknowledging flaws and embracing imperfection. I never thought I was without flaws or imperfections. I hope this works out!
Writing can be a handy tool when it comes to apology and forgiveness. It gives one the opportunity to re-phrase any comment that may be offensive. One can also read where they are not telling the truth to themselves, where they don’t really feel forgiving. That’s the time to stop and attempt to shift that energy before contacting the other person. Writing has really helped me get clear. Thanks for the post.
Thanks for stopping by and reading. You are correct that writing first sometimes helps.