My dad wasn’t perfect. Not by a long shot — he was the polar opposite of perfect. If “perfect” was the South Pole, my dad was Santa Claus’s long-time neighbour on the North Pole. You get the point. But one thing I positively revere about my dad is his ability to do two things:
- Ask for forgiveness
- Forgive those who wronged him
Even when I was a young kid, he apologised every time he aggrieved me: calling me “stupid”, neglecting to thank me for the Kit Kat I gifted him out of my meagre pocket money because he loved chocolate. Of course, he didn’t always realise his mistake, but I can say with full confidence that he always owned up to his mistakes when he did.
I would like to think that I inherited that trait from him (the asking for forgiveness part, not the forgiving — I am notoriously vengeful). I turn 33 this year, and over the past 32 years, I have uttered “sorry” to almost everybody I deemed deserving of an apology. I always make it a point to apologise to people whose relationship I wish to preserve if I had hurt or disrespected them (provided that I’m aware of the harm, of course; I don’t know what I don’t know).
When do you apologise, how do you apologise, to what specific deed do you apologise, the art of a sincere apology — those are murky waters. But one situation in which I firmly believe that apologies should be generously dispersed is in a reconciliation. I think that a healthy dose of apologies is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, all the more so when the parties are trying to move past a difficult patch.
I found myself in such an attempt at reconciliation not long ago. After years of tension that climaxed in recent months, I found myself face-to-face with the woman who caused me years of agony. The way I see it, we both had a role to play in the fuckery. I have every intention of assuaging the friction, so I swallowed the bitter pill — and I took responsibility for my role in the conflict. I did it multiple times. Whenever I was presented with a situation of the past in which I see my fault, I immediately owned up to it.
And then I waited for her to do the same. I waited, and waited, and waited…
But her apology never came.
Since that day, I have tried to rationalise-to-death the missing apology.
- Does she consider herself blameless and therefore not required to apologise?
- Does she see her fault, has considered apologising, but decided against it?
- Does she see her fault, but did not even consider apologising?
- Are apologies not part of her vocabulary at all — does not expect to receive them or dispense them?
- Does she consider her mild admission to her role an equivalent to an apology?
- Is making apologies not even a concept to her?
- Does she consider an apology a refusal to move?
I just banged out a couple of hundred words on apology; clearly, I am still trying to come to terms with her lack of apology. I have decided that my healing will not be dependent on her apology, but alas, as Steve Magness, author of Do Hard Things would tell you, your brain converses with itself when you’re pushing through pain.
His advice: talk to yourself in yourself in third person (I’m sorry, Steve Magness, for being reductive with the thesis you probably took years to build).
So, CP, you don’t need her apology.