Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why apologize?

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the bad Karma I created by insensitively failing to assist a colleague who was obviously in need of help. After writing that blog, I wrote him a note of apology. The blog I just wrote on forgiveness has lead me to reflect on apologies as well.

An apology differs from an act of forgiveness, but also has something in common. We forgive for harm that has been done to us. We apologize for harm that we may have done to another. Sometimes an apology can also be accompanied by an act of atonement – an act that corrects the harm or compensates for it in some way. I could not return to help my colleague but, in addition to apologizing, I promised to behave differently if similar circumstances arose in the future.

An apology may encourage someone I have harmed to forgive me, but I have no control over this. However I could, as part of the apology, request their forgiveness.

My mother was someone who accumulated slights in her psyche and rarely forgave. She cut herself off from her brothers, from her mother, from some of her grandchildren and, for twenty years, from me. After twenty years we had a conversation, which I will never forget, though I can’t remember what evoked it. For two hours she told me everything that had been wrong with my life since I had graduated from high school. By this time I was more than 40 years old, so here was quite an accumulation of hurts, slights and malfeasances, most of which I had not intended or been aware of at the time and didn’t even remember. Fortunately, I had, not long ago, completed the Est Traning, which gave me some coaching on how to deal with such an onslaught. I simply apologized and asked my mother if she could forgive me. At the time she said she wasn’t sure whether she could or not – but she did.

We were good friends for the remainder of her life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 years? That must be hard to deal with. You, however, went and talked to her about it. That is one of the best things you could do. Congratulations, you've touched me.

2:25 PM  

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