Are you choosing to apologize because you have wronged another? Is the other person expecting you to apologize, because they feel wronged? If someone expects an apology from you, ask yourself, did I do something wrong? If not, why is there a disconnect? You may want to get some other opinions. Perhaps, you did nothing wrong.
If you feel that you did wrong the other person, take the following steps:
- Let go of any expectations you have and allow it to unfold naturally.
- Express your remorse sincerely. Focus on how you wronged them and how that must make them feel. Be contrite.
- Accept responsibility for your role in what happened. However, do not accept responsibility for things that weren’t in your capacity to control. Matter of factly say, “I don’t feel that was my responsibility.” and then let it go.
- Be present with the other person if they respond. Do not interrupt them. Only respond when they have finished talking. Be prepared for what they may say in return, so you are not blindsided. Sometimes an apology is mostly about the other person getting things of their chest. They may be hard on you. They may be unfair. This is because they are still angry. Usually when they get it off their chest, they will soften and have a more realistic perspective.
- Offer to make amends for what happened.
- If they respond again, be sure to listen intently without interrupting.
- Promise to take the steps required to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
- Accept the outcome. They may not forgive you. Make this OK with yourself, because you cannot make someone forgive you. The sooner you accept this in life, the sooner you will experience the freedom of not having to be forgiven.
- Follow through on any promises you made.
- Now that you have apologized, are you still feeling guilt or shame? Are you embarrassed? If so, you need to forgive yourself.
- You did your part and it’s time to move on.
What happens if the other person doesn’t forgive you? Will you resent them? Resentment only hurts you, not the other person. The way out of a bad feeling involves a softening. You may choose to soften by forgiving them for not forgiving you.
Forgiving them for not forgiving you may feel unfair, but resentment feels worse. In addition, you will have these feelings of resentment on top of any guilt you may have. Remember, by not forgiving you, the other person is feeling resentment. So they are feeling pretty crummy right now.
Forgiving yourself may require taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Imagine yourself in the future after you have taken those steps. Allow yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment. Notice where you feel this in your body. Imagine those sensations spreading throughout your body. It feels good to be the new you.
©2016 Stephen L. Martin
Painting: The Remorse of Orestes by William-Adolphe Bouguereau