February 24, 2016

The Apology that Never Comes: How to Find Closure & Move On.

woman shadow flowers back

Love becomes a lot easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got. ~ Robert Brault

Saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” is not easy for people.

We all believe that we’re right about whatever the particular situation is and the other person was wrong in whatever injustice we believe they committed.

So both parties often walk away, not uttering anything that resembles regret over what’s happened and holding fast to their own belief that they have no reason to apologize.

For most of us, it is not until some time passes that we can own and accept our part in a fight, disagreement or breakup that caused a lot of pain. And by that time, the moment for apologizing seems to have passed its due date, so we never reach out to actually issue the apology to the person who rightfully deserves it.

There are many reasons we don’t reach out and apologize to the people we’ve hurt. I recently talked to a bunch of my friends and colleagues and asked them what has held them back from apologizing to someone they knew deserved one from them. These are the things that unanimously held them back:

1) Time. Too much time has passed and we feel embarrassed to reach out to the person now. “What’s done is done,” we say, “And I don’t want to dredge all that back up.” The thing is, isn’t really any time expiration on apologies. They are good at any time. But oftentimes this is why we don’t reach out to someone from our past to give one that we know is well deserved.

2) Shame. We may still feel a lot of shame around our actions and the way we treated that other person. We know that what we did was wrong, and in some instances, hideous. And nobody wants to have to face the person they hurt so deeply again. We’d rather just move forward and forget it ever happened rather than have to feel those uncomfortable feelings of guilt and shame again.

3) Pride. Our ego tells us that we were justified in whatever we did. We were right and they were wrong. End of story. Maybe we weren’t happy in our marriage, so we had an affair. Maybe we felt that the other person had done something sh*tty to us, so we were entitled to do something shitty back to them to even the score. Or they aren’t that nice a person anyway, so why would we do something as genuine as apologize to them when they don’t deserve it.

4) Unconsciousness. This is when we truly aren’t aware of how our actions or behavior affected or hurt another person. The person on the receiving end might feel like it’s incredibly obvious what we did, but we genuinely don’t see what we did wrong or that the way we behaved warrants an apology. This is so common because two people rarely ever see a situation the same way—so what would offend one person often doesn’t offend or bother another.

5) We don’t think that apologizing will change anything. The most common response I’ve heard from people I talked to was, “What’s the point?” They felt that whatever they said to try to make it up to the person wouldn’t change anything, so they didn’t see the point in making any effort. In most cases, they felt that the person hated them and an apology wouldn’t change that, or they felt that the other person had already moved on, so there was no point in reaching out to apologize because it wouldn’t repair the relationship in any way.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s not about whether our apology would change anything. It’s simply about owning what we did to another person that we know was wrong.

The thing is, at the end of the day, we all have to make peace with the apologies we’ve never gotten. We don’t need that apology to have closure and move on with our lives.

A friend once told me that he felt the hurt and resentment I was carrying around were just heavy burdens dragging me down and I had the ability to let go of that bag of hurts anytime I chose.

He was totally right. Forgiving others and letting go of needing an apology was the only way to release those burdens. I realized I didn’t even need it anymore.

Close out that chapter of your life. And remember that just because you never received the apology you’ve been wanting doesn’t mean that the other person isn’t actually sorry for what they did.


Author: Dina Strada

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Camila Cordeiro at Unsplash 

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