Thursday, May 21, 2015

Apologies are gifts, not demands!

Watching Survivor last night something struck me about apologies that I hadn't thought of before.

One of the players had said things that were incredibly cruel, intentionally hurtful, and just generally beyond what is acceptable discourse even in the context of a million dollar game. He went too far, period.

Months later, on the reunion show he was prompted to apologize on national TV and he sort of did. I say sort of because it wasn't a great apology. So after the apology the cameras of course cut to her and she was asked, "Do you accept his apology?"
She took a LOT of words to say that she did not accept it. Then the apologizer went on to tell her that if she didn't accept it she would never be the person God intended her to be, or some such. He was demanding she accept the apology.

That's not how apologies work.

An apology, a real apology, a sincere apology, is a gift. It is freely given and the other person's acceptance or not is NOT up to the one apologizing. An apology is a gift, not a demand for forgiveness. And the thing is... a person doesn't HAVE to accept an apology. If you do something horrible to me and then simply apologize but show no real remorse, no intention to not do the thing again. Not only do I not accept your apology, but you've made it worse by attempting to black-mail me into forgiving me.

A lot of people use an apology to place the bad-guy onus onto the initial victim of their being a jerk. Look. I stabbed her  kids 93 times but I apologized and the bitch didn't accept it. She's the one with problems! Um. No. You are.

When I apologize to someone, and I've had to do it more than once because God knows I'm not perfect, my hope is that they will accept it but I can't demand or expect it. I've violated their trust. I've hurt them. It's okay for them to need, want time to heal, and get over it, and learn to trust me again by my showing, every day for the rest of my life, that I meant the apology by NOT DOING IT AGAIN.

Is it healthy for them not to accept my apology? Not my problem. All I can do is sincerely apologize and endeavor to make sure I earn their trust back at some point if they're willing to give it. You can no more demand someone trust you than you can demand someone accept an apology or respect you. Those are internal things, those are choices we make as people. We can't make another person do a lot of things, as much as we'd like to sometimes. So, if you apologize and they don't accept drop it. You've done the first part. You've given the gift. Whether they choose to accept it or not is on them. It may sit unopened on the table for 19 years. Fine. It's their call whether they open it or not. You just make sure not to screw things up again in the future or it'll go in the bin, opened or not.

I'll say it again because it's the important part: An apology should be a gift, not a demand, and a person is not required to accept an apology or forgive the transgressor.
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