Friday, August 21, 2009

Mea Culpa

The bitterest tears shed over graves
are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone.
~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Someone apologized to me for a hurtful act committed long ago. Though it was a delayed apology, the effect was profound in the present.

I found myself faced with a decision. I had to accept or reject their apology. To do the former would be a step toward grace and healing for this person and for me. To reject it, I sensed, would result in lingering angst and anger, not just affecting the nature of the relationship with that person but also, independently, affecting me and my experience in the world. So, with an equal mix of courage and trepidation, I accepted the apology and offered my forgiveness.

I was nonplussed by my reaction: I felt good. Relieved. Lighter. Almost- free.

And I knew- I felt it- I'd done the right thing.

I started thinking about apologies- accepting responsibility for hurting another- and recognized that we don't apologize enough to one another as humans who are in constant, varying degrees of relations with each other.

What is needed from those seeking forgiveness for a transgression?

Recognition of and remorse for the wrongdoing: It is crucial for the person who hurt the other to grasp the consequences for the person who was harmed.

Acknowledgement to the wounded and asking forgiveness: It sounds like this: "I've hurt you. I said something I should not have said. I was wrong. I am sorry."

Sincerity: This process must be sincere, not perfunctory. If it isn't coming from the heart, forgiveness will most certainly not follow.

Empathy: The experience of true empathy will help you understand the other person's possible reluctance to forgive wantonly, and thus, make the apology more meaningful. Take on that person's feelings; see the world through their eyes. Imagine if it was you...

Reassurance: Trusting relationships are a social commodity. The breaking of trust- either in a person's actions, feelings, or safety- is not easily rebuilt. Reassure the other person that you will work toward rebuilding trust, and offer a sincere promise that you will not repeat the offense.

The wondrous thing about the psychology of relationships is their complexity. They are complex because the human experience is multifaceted. Some transgressions will be easier to forgive than others. Some people will be easier to forgive than others. Still, forgiving is the process of giving to another; and there is much reward in giving. Far more than in taking.

I learned this lesson today and I gave what I've long-since needed to give. And it felt good.

Apologize to someone today. Leave no business unfinished.

(For) Give freely and be set free.

I am very sorry, Mom.
I am very sorry, Dad.
I am very sorry, Nanny.
I am very sorry, Pammy.
I am very sorry, AJ.
I am very sorry, Susan.
I am very sorry, David.
I am very sorry, Elisabeth.
I am very sorry, Jimmy.
I am very sorry to me.

And mostly, I am very, very, very sorry Chey. I am so very sorry.

I hope you find it in your hearts to forgive me.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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