Is Saying Sorry Demoting You?

 

Question: I am not sure if I am way too sensitive or if others just don’t value me enough to apologize for their wrong doings. Perhaps we should just except they will never apologize and move on. Yet there is still so much deep pain.

 

Answer: On the other side of the question, when we become aware that we have truly wounded someone, we need to apologize. That doesn’t mean that an apology is always warranted. It is not necessary to keep saying “I’m sorry’ for everything.

 

But in answer to the question, we often feel wounded when our core fear has been triggered: our fear of failure or our fear of loss. A couple of thoughts to keep in mind are: 1- are they offending us because they are in a fear mode? 2- are we interpreting their actions or comments as an offence because we are in a fear mode?

 

Another issue we have regarding apologies is we as a society tend to view apologies as a sign of weakness. In fact they require great amount of character strength. A sincere apology offered and accepted is one of the most profound interactions of the human race. It is a powerful builder of damaged relationships. Even with that, we tend to not give it much thought. It is also one of the social skills that is often neglected when teaching our children and may even be a skill that most of us as adults have not learned very well.

 

To say we are sorry can make us feel our deepest fear: that we have failed or made a mistake. How can we admit that we are lacking in some way? How can we admit that we also struggle with fears and that we are not perfect? Maybe we fear that if we say sorry that others will take liberty and offend us again. That is a fear of loss- maybe a loss of self-worth, or a loss of our standing in our community.

 

And on the other hand, a direct personal offense is the hardest to find peace around. Whether we have been ignored, belittled, betrayed, humiliated or talked down to, we can feel we have been diminished. That can validate our fear of not being good enough. It can validate that just maybe we are not capable of being who we thought we could be.

 

There are some very good reasons to apologize. Keep in mind we apologize not just for the other person, but also for ourselves.

  • The biggest reason to apologize or accept an apology it to restore relationships, whether with an intimate relationship or it could be that other people just need to feel some peace in their lives.
  • Some need to rid themselves of the guilty conscience. They are feeling ashamed, and they need some self-respect back.
  • You may have an empathic reason for apologizing. You regret that you lost some integrity in your own life.

 

Whatever the reason for the apology, it does take the shame of your offense and redirect it to yourself. It helps you, the offender and offended, to come to grips with understanding your own fears as well as the fears of the other person. Just knowing that we are all of equal value, makes the apology and acceptance easier. None of us has more value than another. This thought process allows us to better understand and give love and forgiveness. We can all make a mistake. We can all ask to start again. Just admitting that a moral code has been violated, creates a stronger moral ground.

 

It is not as easy as it sounds, nor is it as hard as it sounds. The following is a guideline to make a sincere apology that will make a difference for all involved.

 

  • Acknowledge to yourself; then to others that you really may have made a mistake.
  • It needs to be specific and very sincere.
  • Tell why you offended them. Promise that it won’t happen again and MEAN it.
  • The other person needs to know that they can be safe with you in the future.
  • This is the hardest part: the offender needs to feel soul-searching regret, which would mean if they could go back and redo it differently, they would.
  • Is there a debt that needs to be settled? How can the damage be repaired?

 

Nelson Mandela was a man considered having great character and integrity. He apologized for atrocities committed by the African National Congress. And he was not even responsible for that struggle. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. It always seems impossible until it’s done.” He knew the important of an apology for the healing process.

 

The biggest stumbling block to saying you’re sorry is that most of us have a belief that apologizing is a sign of weakness or it is a sign that we are guilty. In reality we are not better off ignoring or denying our offenses because they will not go away. The truth is that to apologize and making amends requires strength of character, because it makes us vulnerable yet we are still good people. The same principle is true of the offended. It takes strength of character to forgive and still love.

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