wings and things

How to apologize?

on January 4, 2014

The reason I have added a question mark to the title of this post is because I don’t know the answer in general. I only know my own way of apologizing, which is pretty much to roll in the dirt, say I am sorry over and over, and kiss the toes of people I don’t particularly like or understand anymore, hoping for some sort of forgiveness or reconciliation.

But there is something fundamentally skewed about this kind of apology because it implies guilt (mine – i.e. it is all my fault) and it also gives the person apologized to a very good reason to keep hold of his/her grudge, whatever it is. Sometimes that grudge has nothing to do with the present but has everything to do with the past and, when the past has somehow become toxic, you know you have a problem.

Ming and I were talking about all of this philosophical stuff today, after a fantastic lunch out with Ants and Meg, and we came to the conclusion that there were three ways to apologize and forgive: (1) Blip it, move on, act normal and civil, forget the hurtful things said/felt; or (2) Talk it through, be honest even if it means tears and/or recriminations, and tell me what the hell I have done that has hurt you so much; or (3) Distance.

Give me distance any day!

Sometimes Anthony imagines or hallucinates about past family conflicts and I have to reassure him that everything is okay now. I hate that he remembers incidents that are best forgotten and I hate that he forgets all is well now.

I always want to talk through these kinds of relationship conflicts – always! I want to put it all on the table, so to speak, but I am usually on my own because nobody wants to get into the nitty gritty of what the hell is wrong here, and nobody seems to want to apologize back!


I am so sick of saying I am sorry!

55 responses to “How to apologize?

  1. I suppose that it all comes down to the balance of power in relationships, something that I think that most do not want to acknowledge, but it does exist. This does not mean that there aren’t feelings, but when you get to one being at the mercy of the other in terms of forgiveness, there is more than just feelings and emotions involved. I despise confrontation and run away from it. I also bend over backwards to accommodate everyone to keep the peace. I wonder if that is why I feel exhausted most of the time.. lol

  2. Ahhh Julie — a woman after my own heart. I always want to get it on the table. Talk about it and move through it — not over, around, under or circumvent — because in my experience, if we don’t acknowledge it — it doesn’t magically go away, it just digs in and rots.

    I have, in the past, done the grovelly thing too — not very effective because I always end up feeling like a victim, which is not healthy! So now, I stick to acknowledging my behaviour, what I did or didn’t do that I meant to do and stay with my truth and leave the other person’s actions etc. out of it. Whether they chose to acknowledge, apologize or not is not my issue. I need to do what is right by me. I figure it takes two to be in a relationship — or argument — so it can’t all be about me, but all my behaviour is about me! And when my behaviour leaves me feeling uneasy, I need to acknowledge it and deal with it.

    It’s not always easy to do — sometimes my critter wants to get in there and be all self-righteous and uppitty! ‘Cause you know I’m right, right? 🙂

    • jmgoyder says:

      Thanks so much for this reassurance Louise – I really didn’t want to write this post but hopefully it is vague enough that it will seem general and innocuous. Feeling a bit gutted and now not thanks to you! Jx

  3. A very thoughtful post. By nature I am one who wants to keep the peace. I hate confrontation, and have often apologized when I’ve thought it would help mend relationships. But as I’ve “matured” I’ve seen the value of not validating behavior I don’t approve of and the need to let others think things through. Sometimes, but not always, this had led to a more balanced discussion later on, and a more sustainable peace…but sometimes it will take time.

  4. mimijk says:

    Great post – and I wish I were more like you. Instead I apologize for any and everything – first learning at this ripe old age that there are times when others should be sorry, or rueful. I just want to avoid the conflict which is just plain wrong.

  5. I’ve spent a good portion of my life not saying what has upset me or hurt me, and instead say “I’m sorry” to keep peace. But what about my hurts and upsets? The older I get the more important it seems to me, to be able to speak our truths. I will always say I’m sorry if I truly am. And I will gladly meet someone half way, or go further if I need to-if the relationship is more important than the issue. But I don’t think I want to spend my life allowing others to hurt me or take advantage because they know I won’t speak up.

    I’ve admired others who handle situations like this. I’ve heard the phrase “I’m sorry you feel that way” and like that it puts it back on that person for their own personal feelings or issues when I can’t do anything about it.

    Great post.

  6. There are those of us who find it easier to apologize than others… In fact some think they have nothing to apologize for…. but when you think of any conflict how often is it that only one person has anything to apologize for…. Does it not really take in most cases two (or more) and even if only one person is responsible for apologizing… I have found that some are not very gracious in receiving it….I am like you I like to talk about the circumstances but if the other person doesn’t want to… then I say just say… I am sorry that…… . I’m like you in another respect… I am always the one to make peace… and it does wear after awhile…. I don’t suppose however that I can change too much at this point… Diane

  7. Ingrid says:

    Yes like you Julie I like to get everything out in the open and work through it, but honestly some people just can’t do it – for whatever reason (usually goes back to childhood insecurities) they are unable to express their feelings or acknowledge the problem and no matter how much talking you do, they’ll never get it.

    I saw a good quote today which said “Laugh when you can, apologise when you should and let go of what you can’t change.” I think that’s wise otherwise it does your head in!

  8. bulldog says:

    Saying sorry to true friends is not necessary… if one is close enough a hug and pat on the back should be all that is required otherwise one just brings back all the dirt to the fore again… this should be the same with family… and if they can’t accept that then put the gloves back on and go at it again, which will not solve anything…

  9. I think sometimes we may feel that we are the only ones going through this particular aspect of everyday human interaction – but I read your posts Julie (and the comments made by other readers) and not only do I accept that we all face this conflict (I shudder just to write it!) often over and over, but also I recognise that there is no ‘one-fits-all’ for responding to conflict. I suck it up until (in a moment of weakness) I bite back. I think I am responding as a cornered rat – others have suggested that I hold it in to use as ammo later. I dunno @_@

    • jmgoyder says:

      I guess, as you say, there is no ‘one-fits-all’ answer and we are all different. I can certainly relate to your notion of a cornered rat – haha! Thanks Jeni!

  10. ksbeth says:

    difference between the male and female approach to apologies

  11. viveka says:

    Sorry, is a hard word to say … but I know that – many of my friends just say to keep the peace going in house. Julie, I don’t think you should apologize … all the time, when Ant has his moments … try to talk around it. Because just to say I’m sorry for something that has been and done, is no good for you – and you have to look after Number One.
    Don’t fight back, try to walk around it .. start talking about something else. Or say just – yes, yes … Sorry, is the hardest words of all .. Just like Elton saying in his song. Some of us have easier to say and some can’t – I think it’s something we learned as children .. and I think with Ming life maybe will it clear to him – and then he recall your conversion.
    Not everything has to be laid on the table – because that is so tiring in the long run … somethings we have to walk around and let go.

  12. I think, as I have done this in the past, that there are 2 types of sorries and the second one isn’t really my problem and I should move on it from it. 1. I am sorry for my actions and 2. I am sorry that the truth hurt you. I should work toward correcting my actions in the first case, I should never want to undo the truth so that the other person doesn’t have to feel bad. Make sense?

  13. I’m working on an essay right now about facing up to our failings, accepting responsibility, all that–and it’s so hard to write. It’s so complicated.

    Sometimes, being “sorry” isn’t only about self-examination and personal growth. It’s about wishing everybody involved had behaved better–and everyone else’s behavior is something we have no control over.

    It’s all so complicated, especially when dealing with illness, fear, dementia, forgetfulness, or even just someone’s temporary depression/anger/anxiety which works just like dementia to skew the facts of “what actually happened” and “what we’re actually saying right now.” It takes so much love–compassion and patience–to remain clear-headed in the face of distorted accusations. I try to apply the old, “forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing,” sentiment.

    But some relationships are definitely toxic — people who have no good excuse for being mean, defensive, accusatory, or abusive, those who never accept personal responsibility and always want to blame the misunderstanding/hurt on the other people. I’ve learned to distance from those, sometimes sadly, but always with the knowledge that although I can forgive, my forgiveness is not enough to build a healthy, reconciled, relationship built on mutual trust and a mutual desire for harmony/compatibility. it takes both parties, working together, (and both working hard at it) to do that.

    But it doesn’t make it hurt any less, to have to decide to distance myself. I always carry around the feeling that it ought to have been different.

    • jmgoyder says:

      I can’t wait to read your essay! I guess all of this ‘stuff’ is part of the human condition and because we are all so different, there is no one answer. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, Tracy.

  14. FlaHam says:

    Julie, I will get nitty and dritty with you, and if need be I will jump on the table with. And most certainly will run like hell (but not for the reason you think). I don’t like running, I kinda feel like the dog chasing a car, what will I do if I ever catch it. But also you and Ming forgot denial,.Some folks just deny, deny involvement, deny knowledge, deny being even partically at fault. I would much rather deal with the runner than the denier. Take care, Bill

  15. Takes wisdom and courage to understand when a real apology is needed and to give it. I don’t really see that a false apology accomplishes anything other than sweeping the issue under the carpet. I sometimes see apologies given to keep the peace, make someone feel better for the wrong reason, etc. when good two way communication could suffice. I’m sorry you seem to have been in some imbalanced relationships where the other side isn’t giving back the apology. I’d be sick of it as well. Hugs.

    • jmgoyder says:

      I’m not quite sure why I was waxing philosophical last night but I guess I was just feeling sad about various past relationships that limped along until they fell down and gave up. I don’t like giving up.

  16. jatwood4 says:

    My dear, you are a woman after my own heart. I did nothing but apologize for years — decades, actually. Finally, I could no longer stand those feelings of guilt. At the same time, a dear friend started asking me, “Why did you just apologize? Explain, please.” When I realized I had no explanation, I was finally on my way to overcoming that awful habit. Thank everything that’s holy!

  17. tootlepedal says:

    Distance is good. It is my preferred method.

  18. dcwisdom says:

    I am a confronter, also, and want to know exactly what I’m held accountable to or for, so I vote for “out on the table.” I find it easier to go ahead and apologize, whether or not I’m at fault, for whatever the problem is since this makes the other person uneasy and seems more eager to resolve the conflict (most of the time). Otherwise, I encourage them to spill it and talk through it. At present, I am also facing this situation probably in the very near future with a family member. Not always pleasant, but it sure makes me feel better and go on with life without the black cloud hanging over me.
    Hope this helps. Love across the waves….hang in there. XO

  19. I have an issue with apologies as well. I feel guilty without ever saying I’m sorry, and for that, I rarely actually do anything requiring an apology. However, I hate hearing I’m sorry. My grandson and husband are the worst. They are constantly apologizing for doing or saying things, usually the same things repeatedly, daily, weekly, annually. Now I tell them I don’t want them to be sorry, but to change their behavior. I hate the need for apologies. Sure sometimes things happen sure, but no one should have to keep apologizing for anything.

    I’m sending you thoughts of forgiveness and peace for the New Year. Let’s hope it’s a happy one!

    • jmgoyder says:

      Thanks for yet another perspective on this issue. This is what I love about blogging – being enabled (by fantastic people like you) to see things differently.

      • Glad I could offer you a different look. I’ve been told that I have an odd way of looking at things. (And thanks for calling me ‘fantastic’ it made my day.)

  20. Terry says:

    I don’t think people like to face problems head on and also people like to think and believe that they can ignore issues, but I would rather get it out in the open. Other wise my mind wonders and becomes obsessed about the other person

  21. batgurrl says:

    Roll in the dirt is right up my alley. What better way to show you are sad. Thanx for the visual Jules. R

  22. tersiaburger says:

    Give me DISTANCE. I have a wonderful picture that says “I am a good enough person to forgive you, but not stupid enough to trust you again”…. You are such a great person – stop beating yourself up because of people that don’t deserve a second thought. Much love!!

  23. Trisha says:

    It must be dreadful to have to rehash old stuff all the time. I don’t have any good advice on this subject because my family is the type that ignores issues, or at least doesn’t talk about them openly. It leads to peace but not closeness!

  24. Denise says:

    I think the problem with the groveling to be forgiven is that if the grovel-ee really thinks you did something wrong, how can they possibly forgive you? Even if they say they do, acceptance of groveling means you think you deserve it.I wrote about that a couple of posts ago. There has to be a different way of looking at it. And yeah, I go for the talking through thing because words must make everything right…at least, that’s my great white hope. ;o)

  25. Lynda says:

    Julie, I rather like to tackle it head on. Get it out in the open and end up at some sort of conclusion or settlement. Unfortunately, most people I know don’t want that much honesty. It makes it painful for us who do.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: