My husband and I were having a spat the other day and he told me not to apologize when I said I was sorry about the situation. It got me thinking about what I believe is a wide spread confusion about what an apology even is. To be sorry and to offer an apology are not one and the same, though regret is a part of what one offers up when they apologize.
Allow me to explain. To offer an apology is a solemn and sacred vow that you have taken the time to reflect deeply on the pain your action has caused someone you love, that you have put your pride and ego aside and considered all you know about them enough to truly empathize with how your words or actions made them feel. It should be taken seriously, given without expectation of forgiveness, and expressed with the desire to open a door for them to purge themselves of the pain you caused. Saying you are sorry is not an apology, its a placation. I have never offered an apology without explaining how I think I made them feel and accepting full responsibility for my actions. Once an apology is given, there is nothing left to do but wait.
Forgiveness is not about you, its about the injured party. You don’t get to be forgiven simply because you have grown tired of being in the dog house or so much time has passed that you have forgotten why you even made a person hurt. After all, when you aren’t the one who was hurt, forgetting the event is easy. This always cracks me up because I have lost count of the amount of times that friends and family members have done utterly shitty, selfish things to me, have said unforgivable, mean things to me, and time passes and they get tired of my anger. They express exasperation at me for not having ‘moved on’ or ‘gotten over it.’ They never apologized or acknowledged the fact that they broke my heart, they just assume they are ready to move on and thus, I should too. Well, good for f**king them, but that’s not how life works.
As I said, forgiveness is about the injured party. People can hang on to pain and rage for decades. It can wear so deeply in a person it turns into an inner cavern. And while we might all see why forgiveness would likely do them good and ease their suffering, it simply isn’t for us to say. We’ve all been hurt or betrayed at least once. We’ve all hurt people we love, through carelessness, or selfishness, or maybe by accident. I think an apology is cathartic for both parties. Just remember its not as simple as saying you’re sorry.