It is inevitable that, sometime during your hopefully long life, you will do something which hurts someone close to you - a friend, neighbor, family member, or colleague. They may respond to this hurt by reducing their communication withyyou, or going silent altogether. They may say that communication can only be restored if you apologize. All too often, you react to this by saying, “Apologize for what? I have not done anything wrong. Let me explain to you my motivations for this action, then you will understand me, and no longer feel hurt.” I can promise you that this will not be a successful approach! Your relationship will be reduced to further conflict over who is “right”.
The world, as well as many of our relationships, is plagued by disputes where the parties are caught up in arguing over events and facts, rather than understanding how a hurtful act actually affect others.
Let me suggest that the next time someone is hurt by your actions, rather than getting caught up in a dispute over what actually occurred, try empathically and compassionately accepting the pain you may have caused, make an authentic apology, and promise to the best of your ability the actions will not occur again. Only then can the forgiveness we spoke of last week take place.
The wronged individual cares little about the internal moral struggle you may be experiencing as to whether your actions were justifiable. This is between you, your conscience, your God and your therapist! Someday much later, after your relationship has been restored, you may be able to have an honest conversation about how you both experienced the harmful activity differently and it may come out that even you deserve an honest apology. This is when the beauty of restoring relationships can be experienced - mutual compassion, bilateral empathy, love and kindness. Your relationship may now be even stronger and deeper than it was before the hurt occurred.
Apology, done honestly and empathically, is the first step to forgiveness and restoration of a mutual fulfilling relationship, when one has been injured. The healing can begin with the connection that a true, honest and heartfelt apology can bring.
My you find peace, love and joy.
Dr. John Monaco