Until recent years, I always thought an Apology, if sincere, carried a lot of weight and that our ability to forgive others was just as important, especially with respect to our own healing. It is a message that we have all heard time and time again, and one we are often taught from a very early age, long before we truly understand what it really means. Most professionals even have a process by which apologies can be made and accepted to help individuals overcome hurts. We are told that it is a necessary step to be able to ‘move past things’, let go of anger, etc. While I still believe that proper apologies and forgiveness are worthwhile in most cases, I am going to go out on a limb without being sorry for doing so, and say that ‘sorry’ doesn’t always fit the bill. Nor should it.
I grew up in a household where apologies (and affection) were not commonplace amongst us as family members. As children, we were taught to apologize to others, but I don’t recall being the recipient of those well sought after words while living at home. I am not placing blame, I am just stating a fact. It’s the way it was and like everything else, I am sure that there were reasons why it was that way. I can remember some very hurtful words and/or situations, and instead of an apology, I was ‘given something’ after the fact, which I assumed was meant to stand in place of the words, “I am sorry for…”. Did it affect me and my familial relationships as a result? Does it still come into play to some extent? Yes, it does. I’d by lying to say otherwise.
Fast forward to life now. I will readily admit that I still have difficulty expressing myself to loved ones, especially when I view it as putting me in a vulnerable light and let’s face it, making apologies are one of those vulnerabilities along with many other things. The good news is that I recognize that this is a weakness of mine, and I have done some considerable work around the issue. I understand where it comes from, I own it and I use it as an area of growth for myself. But here’s the thing, there are situations which many of us face, in adult life especially, in which apologies are either insincere, not given, non-existent or unfulfilling. And, dare I say that most of these instances are rooted with people whom we trust the most–spouses, parents, siblings, best friends, etc.? I am learning that these relationships, some innate, can be the most hurtful and for that reason, some of these relations cannot, and should not, be repaired. It’s almost as though those closest to us feel that they have a license to use their intimate knowledge of us against us. Why? To ignore their own hurts and displace it on us. I think maybe so, as sad as it is to say. I don’t have a psychology degree, but I did take some courses and I think I know enough to know that it is not my place in this life to take on someone else’s hurts or issues. They are not mine, I will not own them. I’ve done it before and it serves no purpose whatsoever. For me or for them. Now, would it be nice to think that a simple, but meaningful apology will fix all? That forgiving others, even without their apology (which usually they are not capable of giving from a selfish standpoint), is key?! Yes, it would be great if that were true, but is simply isn’t. It’s just not true.
Some relationships, some situations are just too complicated, too toxic or too unproductive to survive, loved ones or not. And, you know what?! It’s okay. ‘Blood is NOT always thicker than water’. Sometimes, we have to just find the inner strength and knowledge (which I believe we already possess and just need to tap into) to move forward by simply letting go of that or those who do not help us to better ourselves and trust our intuition in knowing the difference between our own stubbornness vs. that which is truly unforgivable or unsalvageable. And, no...apologies and/or forgiveness need not be a part of it all in order to move on. In fact in many of the really hurtful cases, usually with family, the only closure you will ever get is in knowing that you cannot ‘fix’ someone else, you cannot ‘make them better’, you cannot ‘heal their hurts’, you cannot ‘aid and abet’ their habits and most importantly, you will NOT be their punching bag, their doormat, their target or their victim. Is it a difficult conclusion to come to when you realize that the only way to move forward it to let go? Of course! Is it an overnight process? No, it’s a lifetime one. Do we set out at the beginning to cut off ties from family and/or friends? No, we don’t, but sometimes it is necessary. And, when decided upon and this is the critical part, we don’t need to explain ourselves to others, to smooth it over or make it look good so that others feel comfortable, or to listen to the adage that you won’t heal without the ‘sorries/forgiveness’. Because, I’ve got news for you. You can heal. You can heal by surrounding yourself and spending time with those who truly care about you, who support and love you for who you are, rather than spending your time and energy tied up in those who only care or think about themselves. I think the real ‘forgiveness’ isn’t about forgiving at all. I think it’s simply about letting go of your own anger, hurt and misguided expectations with the realization that everyone is on their own journey, one that you cannot alter, no matter how much you’d like to–just as they cannot change your journey, unless you let them. Remember: YOU teach others how to treat you. At the end of the day, only YOU can decide what is best for you. Do NOT let anyone else try to convince you of what is right, what is good, as it may be what’s good for them, not you. You know your own truth AND you know if you are telling yourself a story about the acceptance of it all. If it’s the latter, then you have some work to do. And if so, that’s okay too. A lot of good can be learned and/or gained from that work. Trust me, I know:-).