I changed my life in April 2009. I went to a weekend workshop that would culminate more than 10 years of spiritual study and self- journey. No, I am not done. The pivot points on this type of journey often direct you to a further place and much more work to do. Still, it brought a huge change in me on so many levels.
One such level dealt with apology.
Our wise instructor asked. “Have you ever offered an apology and had it rejected? How did that feel? Now, remember that feeling when people come to you and are truly sorry for something they did.”
Our instructor wasn’t talking about the agenda driven type of apology we sometimes speak of. Many of us have been the recipient of empty words from empty people. Nor was she speaking of the way innocent bystanders might suffer at the hands of others. In this case, she was speaking of those situations where we play an active role and even in moments of knowing we should or could do more to change or flee the situation, we stay put and somehow contribute.
This was about authentic and heart-felt apologies and what it really means to offer that and conversely, accept it from another. Well, now I had to think about this some. I could see a history in my life where I was so married to my anger and right-ness that the idea of forgiveness ‘felt’ like I would be forfeiting my strength or my claim to restitution.
What I learned, however, was that in apology you allow that you had an active part in what took place. Offering apology to another, if done from a place of growth, is not so much about placing blame as it is making it proportional.
Better said, once you know who did what, you have to choose to move past it. Beating it to death changes nothing. It is in the acceptance that you also brought something to the table. Did you look away from obvious truths? Did you pick your people in the same way that failed you before? Apology asks you to ask yourself, “What did I do that in the simplest of terms was just crazy?”
Believe me; I didn’t like this revelation that I might have had anything to do with what people had done to me. And that voice in my head rang loud and angry. “WHAT? Now how could I be the victim AND have been a participant?”
Still, if I am to admit that I am an active component of my life, then I had no choice but to admit this.
So after some time had passed, I apologized to someone for bringing them into my life and into my crazy. Then, something amazing happened. I felt free. The puzzle was complete and I could see from my ‘new’ pivot point that the only way for me to move past the wrong doings of others was to own my part of it and hopefully not do that again.
In my apology I said nothing about their actions. This was not about them. They and only they could find their part in it and resolve it. My apology was about my choice in being with them, believing their words over and over again, having my own moments of outrageous behavior, allowing their actions to define me and all the other nuances that happen in such relationships and ultimately destroy them.
At last, I think I understood it.
The apology I gave was not accepted and it was terribly hard. Harder even than I thought it would be, and harsh things were said in response to me. Yet it didn’t matter. At that point it was the act of owning my part; typing it out, leaving it there in my opponent’s hands and allowing that I was not a hapless victim in my life, but also to some point, culpable.
Oh, sure I wanted to fight back. I wanted to be right. I wanted to be the victim, righteous and wounded. But I realized that I had gotten myself into a tough spot. I was finally at the point where going back to being that angry victim would be more painful than going forward without her. Familiar yes- understood by me, yes- easy, yes. But not me, not any longer, not if I wanted all this time and journey to be worth anything.
This was rough stuff for me and a rocky part of the path.
So I am changed now. Changed in ways that can only happen through bumps and cuts to the ego. And the best change of all, I think, is that I can now see the whole process of apology. Like a great drama unfolding before me, I see what it takes to do it right. I see what it takes to grow from it and be someone better, someone free of old choices.
More than ever, I can see when someone offers an apology without those bumps.
I can see how they might stay safe (if dysfunctional) in the unrepentant parts of life and toss out “I’m sorry” to merely placate the other person.
When that happens, I leave them with it. I do not help to free them, as no one can. I do not carry them with me, as I have enough to do while working on my own bumps.
And I wish them well, although I doubt they will hear it above their own screaming. Sad that.
Patrice Ardiere’s writing focus is people. She helps her reader realize that he/she is not alone, and has found the hero within. The lasting message that all things have purpose and that my reader has value is the ultimate goal.
Ongoing work is a series of children’s fiction for kids with special needs. The heroine of the first book has Selective Mutism. Additional works will address stuttering, deafness, ADD etc. Currently she is writing the third of six stories for a dragon anthology. We are not dragons, but the reader will find many parallels in that strange yet familiar world that relate to self-esteem, choices, growth, faith, fear and of course… love.