I stink at apologizing. The first time I remember being forced to apologize to someone as an adult, it was when I loosed my sharp tongue upon a human resources worker regarding an insurance screw up. My dad happened to be a vice president at the company where I worked, and it hadn’t been twenty minutes before my cell phone rang. “You will apologize to her, Amy.” I had no choice in the matter.
It was high drama in overdrive inside my head that day. I thought I was going to die. It felt painful to have to say the words “I’m sorry, I was wrong” to someone. In the end, I completely chickened out by simply having flowers delivered to her that afternoon with an apology written on the card. To be sure, this grand gesture was happily accepted by both the worker and my dad, but it did nothing to further the personal growth I so sorely needed in this basic life skill.
If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. ~Matthew 5:23-24
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. ~Step 9
When we have close relationships with other people, Father God likes to use our tendency rub each other the wrong way, since we’re doing it anyway, for the sake of our spiritual growth. Though thankfully I have grown since that first incident, I still have a long way to go when it comes to delivering an adequate, heartfelt apology.
Last night, I found myself in a serious discussion with someone who has hurt me, and whom I have hurt. I remember feeling truly sorry for what I had done, and genuinely, fervently wanting to apologize and make amends where possible. I also wanted to share where my friend had hurt me, as I had been keeping that to myself for a number of weeks, collecting resentments in the process.
What I learned last night: THESE TWO GOALS CANNOT BE ACHIEVED IN THE SAME CONVERSATION.
No, really. Take it from me. Learn from my mistake. Do not even think about trying it. I am not even remotely kidding about this.
Being direct also means assuming complete responsibility for our wrongs. We don’t do this by pointing the finger at someone else and saying, “I’m very sorry, but if you hadn’t done what you did. . . .” Nor do we want to lessen our responsibility by blaming a third party and saying something like, “Well, I’ll admit to using poor judgment, but if Joe hadn’t told me. . . .” Your point in making amends is not to admit how you were misled, though this may have been the case. Your point is to confess that you had a choice in the matter and that you made the wrong one. ~Pat Springle, Conquering Codependency
I can spend an hour delivering a carefully crafted apology for all my wrongs (no, really, I can!), and then completely negate the entire apology with one little word: “but.” This word will obliterate one’s apology, guaranteed.
So how does one avoid this quandary? I’m just guessing, because I haven’t actually been successful at this yet, but I assume one takes measures to stop collecting resentments in the first place. My goal is to stay in the moment, meaning if someone hurts me, say “ouch” and move on. Let go of the small stuff by remembering the grace that has been lavished upon me. Look to Father, not humans, to meet all my needs in the first place. Lofty goals, this is true, which are maybe, partly, imperfectly achievable through the grace of God.
From Courage to Change, Page 129, May 8
“Yes, but . . .” These two words have become a signal to me that I am refusing to accept something over which I am powerless. My world is rich with wonderful gifts: beauty, a loving fellowship, and challenges that strengthen and prepare me for a better life. Is it worth it to deny these gifts by wishing things were different? Will it make them change? No! I prefer to accept them gladly, enjoy them thoroughly, and humbly accept the reality my Higher Power offers without any “yes, buts.”
The harsh tone, the unkind word, the apparent indifference of another is usually over in a few minutes. What price am I paying by holding on to those few minutes? I don’t have to like reality, only to accept it for what it is. This day is too precious to waste by resenting things I can’t change. When I accept everything as it is, I tend to be reasonably serene. When I spend my time wishing things were different, I know that serenity has lost its priority.
While I am responsible for changing what I can, I have to let go of the rest if I want peace of mind. Just for today I will love myself enough to give up a struggle over something that is out of my hands.
“By yielding you may obtain victory.” ~Ovid
Father God, I confess the word “but” needs to be eliminated from my vocabulary. I have said that word often enough in the first 39 years of my life to never say it again for the rest of my days. Please shine your light on this character defect, remove it completely from me, show me how to change.