- Mahatma Gandhi
It's a little bit of a paradox. You'd think that forgiveness would be easier because it's not really asking anything from you. Apologizing takes vulnerability, sincerity, and a willingness to put your pride aside, and admit you were in the wrong. That can be a feat. Forgiveness on the other hand asks you to do one thing: let it go.
The ability to apologize is an admirable skill. To do it properly, you must be able to self reflect, actualize, and then admit that you're flawed. I'll admit, I don't have much trouble with that these days, but when I was younger -- pfffft.
My pride got in the way of everything. I had this need to always be right, and never be in the wrong. If I got in an argument with a friend, it'd always end up with me hanging onto every shred of resistance before I'd admit I was wrong. When I wasn't good to somebody, I'd justify it in my head. Well they're just pissed because of x, or so-and-so is just immature, and doesn't understand that I meant y.
I made excuses for myself, instead of taking responsibility for my actions and words. I'll tell you flat out that this mentality is crap. When you don't own up to your mistakes, you suck to be friends with. If you're lucky enough to still have friends, they're probably the kind of people who make up excuses for you.
Oh, that's just how so-and-so is.
They just had a rough day.
They're actually really nice underneath it all, you just have to know them.
These sentiments are incredibly sweet, but they're also damaging. When you make up an excuse for someone's bullshit, you enable them. When you make up an excuse for your own bullshit, you lie to yourself. Your friends enable it, and you lie... doesn't feel so good.
Here's the thing: the ability to apologize can be developed, and nurtured. Just because you're a prideful self righteous bastard now, doesn't mean you can't grow into a self aware and compassionate individual. Bit of a weird question, but how should you approach an apology?
1. Honestly Assess Your Fault
I'm not the best at this, but you need to assess your fault. Did you actually do something wrong? I often choose to apologize for things that aren't really my fault, but I feel like I should to get the ball rolling toward neutrality. More on that later.
Take the time to be completely honest with yourself. Ask:
"Was there a better way I could have approached that situation?"
"Did I respect the other person when I did the action?"
"Did my actions, or words hurt the other person?"
"Would I feel hurt in any way if somebody did the same to me?"
If you're in the clear after asking yourself those questions, then you're probably not at fault. Even so, you can at least acknowledge that something upset the other person. That often helps.
2. Be Specific
A traditional, "I'm sorry," rarely cuts it. You're going to have to get specific about what you're sorry for.
If you said something that upset somebody try:
"I'm sorry for the way I said that. I could have phrased it better."
If you did something that upset somebody try:
"I'm sorry for what I did. It was a shitty thing to do, and I realize that I was in wrong."
If you say any of these verbatim you're definitely full of shit. Not that they aren't good apologies -- they are -- but only if you're sincere. No cookie cutter apologies dammit! You need to be specific, so make sure you know what you're apologizing for before you do it.
3. Be Authentic
You can't give insincere apologies. They have to come from the heart in order to be effective. The best part about giving an authentic apology is that it allows you to let go. If the person forgives you, that's fantastic and you'll be able to move on. If they don't, you can still move on because it's their choice not to forgive you. That's on them.
4. What Follows
You showed up, apologized with sincerity, and admitted that you were wrong. You admitted that you messed up, and feel remorse for it. I'll always forgive a genuine apology. Always. If a person can't accept an apology, that's their problem. God knows they're going to mess up eventually too, and be asking for somebody else's forgiveness.
Be authentic with your apology, and you can have some peace of mind. You can't take back what happened, but you can own up to it. That takes bravery, and grace. Cut yourself some slack, and move on if they can't forgive you. That's not a person you want in your life.
Truly forgiving somebody for causing you pain or discomfort can be a real bitch. It isn't always easy, and some people are much better at it than others. Regardless, the ability to forgive is worth having. Let's break it down.
Forgiveness takes empathy. If you can't empathize, you're never going to master forgiveness, and you're going to miss out on some amazing relationships.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes. You see the situation from their perspective, and can better grasp what they're feeling or going through. I know a few people that suck at this. If you can't go beyond your own ego and perception, then you'll never be able to understand another person's actions, or fully forgive them for their mistakes.
However, if you can put yourself in their place, it'll be much easier to understand their actions.
Understanding breeds forgiveness, and it feels amazing.
2. Reflect on Your Past Mistakes
This is huge. It's a hell of a lot easier to forgive somebody when you see yourself in their position. In the past -- when you inevitably made mistakes -- did you want the involved parties to forgive you?
Have you ever wanted somebody to forgive you?
If you answered yes to either question, then why aren't you forgiving the person in front of you today? If you can ask for forgiveness, but not give it, what kind of person are you? I don't really have an answer. This is something you'll have to answer for yourself.
3. Let It Go
This will be blunt, but for fuck's sake just let it go.
What do you gain by harboring resentment?
Nothing. We gain nothing by holding grudges, and withholding forgiveness. When you hold a grudge you form a small ball of hate in your heart. It just sits there like a brick weighing down you down. Eventually you let it go, or you let it spread throughout you. If you never deal will it, the hate will haunt you. Days, weeks, or months down the line it will creep back up, and start eating at you.
Hate and resentment are rabbits in heat. They sit in their home, hump like crazy, and breed more hate and resentment.
That's where a lot of the ill will we hold for ex relationships stems from. You carry resentment, and closure doesn't really happen. In order to truly move on with your life, you need to forgive those who hurt you. Understand that they are human, and make mistakes. They are showing courage and humility when they apologize to you for their faults.
Quit being a dick, and forgive them.
Truly forgive them.
With all your heart.
When you withhold forgiveness, you're the asshole.
Not them. You.
Apologies can be a real challenge, but giving forgiveness might actually be harder. If you want peace in your life, you're going to have to learn how to do both. I can tell you firsthand that letting go of resentment feels amazing: a huge weight is lifted off your shoulders. Also, just because you forgive somebody, doesn't mean that you have to let them back into your life. Some people will forever be damaging.
Dig deep, and let go of whatever negativity you're harboring. If you're having trouble letting go, ask yourself, "Why am I not letting this go?" There's a tough reality at the end of that rainbow, and it rarely has anything to do with the other person.
Step back, empathize, own your faults, and make peace. You'll only be happier for it.
Break new ground,