For a year during my graduate degree internship, I worked with the addiction community at a non-profit recovery program. I unexpectedly developed a love for the addiction community long before I spent a lot of my 2018 year with a recovery program. My husband has long struggled with an addiction issue, one that appeared to have near demolished our marriage a few years ago, and it was this experience that propelled my work with the addiction community. I began to understand my own views on addiction and even evaluate my own flaws and sins especially in terms of God’s grace. One of the many issues that I have tackled with many individuals is the terrifying act of apologizing. Very similar to accepting a compliment, I believe that our society has an issue with simply saying “I am sorry” and truly meaning it. Furthermore, I believe that part of this has to do with little consideration of other’s feelings, but the other part has to do with feelings of guilt regarding one’s wrong doings and the uncertainty that a heartfelt apology will be accepted.
“What if they don’t accept my apology?”
My response, “then they don’t.”
What!? Okay, so here it is. Only you and God know whether your apologies are sincere. No matter how many times you say "sorry" or how many good actions you have, the truth will always lay between you and God. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should not make amends with those that you have wronged, but do not extend an apology simply because you want to feel sanctified by someone else’s forgiveness. There are lessons that are meant to be learned throughout our lives and learning to make amends with others and being humble enough to apologizes in the first place are a few of those things.
What I really want to say when I hear individuals tell me, “I can’t tell them, what if they don’t forgive me?” or “What if I apologizes and they shut the door in my face?” is, “So What?”
I mean, “so how is this going to really change your life?” Of course, this is something that I would explore with an individual in therapy, so that we can examine the exact root of what is really the big fear. However, since I cannot do that here, I feel the need to be extremely blunt. If someone does accept your apology, then they don’t, and you will keep breathing. Yes, it will hurt your pride and make you feel guilty. You will feel the sting on your face from rejection, but that means a few things:
Do not get hung up on the fact that someone does not believe or accept your apology for your wrong doings. A fact of life is that you cannot control the thoughts, behaviors and actions of others (minus the whole mind games and verbal abuse things). What you can control is how you react in your life, what you do with your time and the decisions you make. Are you going to wallow in self-pity or are you going to make your apology truly mean something? My hope is that you decide to move forward and begin to grow. Do not let an apology be in vain and do not let the truth of God's forgiveness leave you left alone in the dark.
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