When I saw this picture in my news feed this morning, my initial reaction was to quickly like it and comment in agreement. Then I realized I had more thoughts about it from personal experiences and I didn’t want to hijack the other person’s post, so I decided – as I sometimes do when a perspective I want to share is too long for Facebook – to write a little bit about it here on my blog where I can express things more fully. Yes, I do realize that these circulating online sentiments are meant to be simple thoughts and most people don’t bother to analyze them. But every once in a while I read something that prompts a more in-depth reflection in my own mind.
Apologies are for when you recognize you’ve done something wrong. If you don’t believe you have, even after reflecting on your intentions, your manners, or whatever applies, an apology isn’t sincere, it’s merely a peacekeeping move. Over time, repeated “just-in-case” or “keeping-the-peace” apologies can lead to dysfunction in relationships. I know this from experience and also from the influence of others more experienced than I in dealing with relationship issues, anxieties, self-esteem, desires to constantly please others, etc.
It’s been an important lesson in my life to learn that even when I’m doing my best to say and do the right things, other people still get mad, hurt, or offended, and it isn’t necessarily about me. Sometimes I’m the one who feels hurt by someone else’s words or actions, even though they haven’t really done anything wrong. There are times when, for the good of another person, we have to say something that’s true and with the intention of helping them to see something significant about themselves or about a situation – politely and with kindness. There are times when our actions are necessary for the benefit of our own well-being or that of the other person, regardless of their response. I’ve experienced having people care enough about helping me to risk my possible upset or anger, and it truly gives more value to our relationship because I know then that my well being is more important to them than their own comfort, and that speaks volumes about the depth of our connection. We don’t learn these things in relationships where everything must be kept light and non-confrontational.
Of course, if we truly wish to help someone, it’s always important to consider why we’re saying or doing things and if it’s necessary for some purpose or if we’re just compelled to give opinions. Depending on the person, their mental state, and their openness or lack thereof to hear the truth or another perspective, they might be well receiving, or get very upset. Neither is an indication of wrongdoing because people’s reactions are often determined as much or more by their own issues than anything outside of themselves.
I can “regret” saying or doing something once I discover the effect it had, and re-think the value of doing it in the first place, but that doesn’t mean I believe I actually did something “wrong”. Other times it’s clear that my initial action or words weren’t with the proper intention or were merely my own lack of consideration, in which case I do owe an apology.
HOWEVER, I do believe being open to recognizing the effect of something we said or did and working to repair misunderstandings- if possible and depending on the other’s state of mind – is more important than letting ego dictate actions and communication. If we truly care about the other person and our relationship with them, even knowing our words or actions were correct and without malice doesn’t justify ignoring the hurt a friend or family member is experiencing. Honesty often leads to hurt feelings, but open communication both ways can allow for healing and growth.
Personally, I find that the more authentic I am in my everyday encounters, the deeper and more authentic my close relationships become. There are a deeper trust and more room for honest expression and communication which doesn’t happen in relationships where people are overly concerned about always being liked, pleasing others, and never having anyone upset with them. I’ve personally found the latter relationships to be superficial and unproductive. I can maintain them if necessary, depending on the person and the connection, but they seldom end up developing into anything deep or lasting.
Obviously, the reactions people have to the picture above and even to my perspective here will depend on personality, temperament, and personal experience. For my part, if you get an apology from me, it’s because I know I was wrong, not merely because I’m concerned you won’t like me anymore 🙂