Apologies: A forgotten language.

I believe apologies really do help. They soothe. It won’t take away what was done, or cover it up. It acknowledges. It puts accountability where it should be. It is the first step in letting go. There are some apologies I will never receive. I will have to let go anyway. I’m not sure people even know how to apologize anymore. I’m not sure they know how to be humble and remorseful.  I hear mothers everywhere say, “Tell Jenny you are sorry.” But I don’t often hear a mother say, ” Do you see how much you hurt Jenny by what you did? See how she is hurting! YOU did that! She deserves an apology.” Do you make a child say they are sorry if they are not? Does that just then become a phrase that has no real meaning behind it? We all know what an empty apology feels like. Do you know what a full apology feels like too?

We still joke about something my daughter did when she was 3. She was playing with her friend Stevie in his room. APPARENTLY her version was that he wanted the light switch on and she wanted it off. So they fought over the light switch. We heard Stevie crying and holding up his finger. My daughter honestly and matter of fact stated, ” I bit my friend’s finger.” She has always been accountable. He had tears running down his little face but didn’t say a word. Just held up his finger with a bite mark in it. She explained why this biting was absolutely justified from a 3 year old’s point of view. Regardless of the circumstance we had her look at her friend crying. I don’t remember her saying she was sorry but she bear hugged him. Hugging him overrode her stance on the light switch.She felt  sorry for hurting her friend. She still tells that story. She has always been very honest and compassionate.

Sometimes we do have to say we are sorry even if we are not completely because the words are a symbol of our choosing to be humble instead of prideful. Saying you are sorry can be a simple gesture of putting someone else before yourself. Is it more important to be right or is it more important to validate the other person is hurting regardless of right or wrong.  “I’m sorry.” Moms make their kids say it all the time. As adults we can choose to say it and mean it.

My daughter and I were just talking about how apologies are a forgotten language. Is it because everyone is so busy blaming? Is it because no one sees how their words and actions affect others? Has ego completely taken over? Have people just forgotten how to look beyond themselves?

A few years back I searched online for some of the men who have abused me in my past. I found one. I sent him a message. (No lecture needed, I know the risk I took could have had detrimental effects yet it was my choice to do it anyway…I am not telling anyone else to do this) I described, in my message to him, in detail what he did to me when I was 13. I described the emotions I felt and the physical things that he forced on me. I assumed he would ignore it. Then after further thought I waited for a defensive/denial message back. I had told a few people about what he did to me, those who had known him. They didn’t believe me. I didn’t know how his reply would make me feel. I never expected this:

“Bethany, I am so very sorry that I acted in such a way that you have described. I can only blame myself for such a terrible act. There are many things that we all as adults have done in the past that we would do over, if we had the chance. What you have written is now my number one Regret. I wish I had used better judgment. Nothing I have done is as foul as you have described. I offer no excuse, for there is no valid reason to defend my action. I am truly ashamed. This letter that you wrote to me has driven a stake into my heart. I will never forget it. I hope that somehow you can move on in your life by putting this behind you. I will carry the burden of this appalling act. I will carry the pain of this. I wish there was some Magic in the world to free you of this chapter in your life. I am sorry from the deepest part of my heart.”
THAT was an apology. THAT was real. and THAT was healing. I replied that I forgave him. Because I did. I still do. I don’t even think about what he did to me anymore. If it crosses my mind it has no bad feelings associated with it. I saved what he wrote me.  I stumble across it every now and then. It reminds me the power of real words, real meaning, and real apologies.
1. He took full accountability
2. Offered no excuses
3. Genuinely apologized
There are so many puncture wounds in my heart. The one caused by him is gone. I wonder how it would feel to get a letter like this from each of the people that have tore away a part of me.
A true apology not only heals the receiver but the giver.
Is it really so hard to just say, “I’m sorry?”

2 thoughts on “Apologies: A forgotten language.

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