A brief introduction to this post: I have been thinking a lot about growth lately. After reflecting on past experiences, I have watched myself act in ways that demonstrate that I have actually learned something. This has been critical but is not always comfortable. It is difficult to put myself in a position of vulnerability, but it is also the only way that I can live up to the pictures I paint on this blog. I am grateful for what I have learned and for all who have taught me. To those who were gracious enough to give me multiple chances, to those who heard my awkward apologies, to those who looked me in the eye when looking back was the hardest thing to do: I am still sorry and I thank you.
I am sorry . . . .
I thought . . .
But you . . .
I guess . . .
It can be hard to apologize. It can be hard to admit that we were wrong, that we hurt someone else, that we misunderstood or misinterpreted or made a mistake. It can be hard to acknowledge that we didn’t behave in the ways that we should have and that our behaviour was harmful.
To apologize means to stand before another person and admit to being fallible, to having erred, to being human. It means wanting to do better and, significantly, taking the steps necessary to do so. To apologize means asking for forgiveness, and asking for forgiveness, we often think, means handing someone else power.
And that is scary.
I’d like to offer something else here: Saying “I’m sorry” and then acting upon what it actually means to be sorry is not only an act of courage, but also an act of recognizing the humanity inside someone else.
Saying “I’m sorry” acknowledges that a wrong has been committed, that a relationship has the potential for being repaired, and that this is work we want to do. And we cannot do it alone.
To come together and rebuild takes not only compassion, but also grace. It takes setting aside ego and hierarchy and control and everything that separates us, and requires us to sit down together and acknowledge, perhaps for the first time, that being human can hurt and that humans cause hurt.
Saying “I’m sorry” recognizes that maybe we are too far gone, and that maybe the gulf is too wide to cross again. Maybe the trust that was once between us has shattered into too many pieces to reconstruct. Saying “I’m sorry” admits that this might be possible.
And this is scary.
But it also might be the only way to move on, even if we aren’t moving on in the ways that we’d hoped. Sometimes life goes that way.
Given that our current cultural obsession with the self has created personalized environments in which each individual is at the centre, it is no wonder considering another perspective is challenging. After all, there are no other perspectives. It is no wonder that discourse and dialogue are anathema. After all, we “cancel” those with whom we disagree. To change one’s mind, which is what happens when we learn, is to flip-flop; to apologize is to capitulate, roll over, show weakness.
There is a great deal wrong here.
A genuine, heartfelt apology carries with it the possibility of making the world a better place. It is an act of building peace in our interactions, relationships, and everyday encounters. This is a powerful thing. No one ever said something so important was easy, though it might be easier than we think. Many things are this way when approached with honesty and openness rather than suspicion and competition.
Sometimes we are wrong, but we can mend those wrongs. This does not mean the harm disappears, or that everything goes back to the way it was before. It means that we forge new paths and learn new ways. We are marked by our experiences, and this is how our lives are constructed.
Treat others the way you want to be treated, or the way they might want to be treated.
Take a deep breath.
Do the hard thing.
Hold out your hand.
If we continue building this world into a better place, there will be someone there to take it.