When you are wrong””whether that wrong is “small” or you are dead you-know-what wrong””how long does it take you to apologize? Do you feel you need to apologize at all?
The Usual Suspects
The following are the usual culprits for being slow to apologize and not apologizing at all.
Relationships are all around us””with our coworkers, or fellow worshipers, our classmates, people we are dating or our spouses. Sooner or later these relationships reach a point of familiarity””the place where one if not all parties involved slip up. You know the place: either you or someone you know says or does something neither of you would’ve dreamed saying when you first met because you knew it was inappropriate. The relationship may have changed but the inappropriate actions or words remain the same. But you or that other person believes it’s “cool” because of you all are “cool.” This situation only gets worse when the offender believes the person they offended shouldn’t be because they should know he or she didn’t mean any harm. “Apologize for what? They know I didn’t do it on purpose!”
Familiarity will breed a whole bucket-load of assumptions. Most, if not all of them are wrong. Truth is, you never can know what someone else will deem as hurtful unless you live inside that other person’s head and heart or have had an upfront, full-disclosure conversation with them. One in which you have discussed every single thing that they find hurtful. This is impossible because many times, especially in intimate relationships, people don’t believe they can be hurt until they meet you.
This section is reserved for the man or woman who doesn’t apologize or has to have his arm twisted to do so because they are rarely, if ever, wrong. They go about their lives “keeping it real” and sharing and doing whatever it is they want because it is their Earthly right. If anyone and everyone has a problem with that, Oh Well! They are right because they have convinced themselves they are being “authentic.” Anything else would be a disservice to them. Being offensive, hurtful, or just dead wrong never enters into the equation. Interestingly, people who operate from this position are quick to jump bad the second they feel the slightest twinge of being offended. It should be stated here that never being wrong and narcissism, a very real form of delusion, usually go hand in hand.
“I know I’m wrong but I don’t get down like that,” says the prideful person. “What good will apologizing do? It won’t change anything I did.” And then there’s that quiet thought that never gets uttered: What if they don’t accept my apology? Pride, pride, and more pride with a side of pride.
An apology can do a world of good. Let’s remove all the “I’s” from the equation and think about the other person for a moment. An apology lets the offended person know that you care about how they feel. You might not be able to go back in time to right what you said or did but you certainly can begin to make things right with that person by making an emotional repair. Depending on how deep the wound cuts, your apology has the potential to open the door for their healing process to begin. This is critically important between spouses and for children to witness and learn.
Most who struggle with apologizing are not singly one of the above but rather a combination of all three depending on the circumstance and/or level of relationship. If any of this sounds familiar please remember:
1) while you are wrestling with all the reasons for why you cannot or should not apologize, the clock is ticking; and
2) while others might be wrestling with you to get you to apologize the clock is ticking. The person you hurt is still hurting.
Sure you can leave it up to chance that they’ll “get over it.” But if they don’t, the initial hurt that might have started off small and easily repaired with a simple “I’m sorry” can become infected with resentment, scorn and disdain. Before you know it the original offense is piled at the bottom of a mountain of issues that threaten to topple your relationship””at work, in school at home, anywhere. You can argue that it’s not your fault the person chose to act this way. Yes, this may be true. But it has nothing to do with the fact that you should apologize if and when you are wrong. It’s easier to apologize now then to argue about why you didn’t or worse later.
When you are wrong (if you are ever wrong) how long does it take you to apologize? How does apologizing or not apologizing play out in your relationship with your spouse — for better or worse?