Are You Sorry?

Are You Sorry?

People say sorry all the time. But sometimes they’re not actually sorry. If by sorry we mean seeing the mistake we’ve made, taking responsibility for it, learning from it, and then expressing that regret to the person(s) we’ve harmed, and making ammends then that is an apology. But it’s not that simple is it….

You may find a person apologises, but not really. The apology has a deflection attached:

  • I’m sorry, but you said/did/were….”, blaming you back
  • I’m sorry you feel that way…“, not for what they did
  • I’m sorry but I was upset/angry/drunk…“, not taking accountability
  • I’m sorry but I think you’re overreacting/too sensitive/not seeing things straight…” belittling your experience or gaslighting you.

So it’s tough. There are people that harm us very badly indeed. We’d love to hear genuine apologies and rebuild the connection lost. We may feel a strong pull to reach out to the other person to hear that apology and perhaps rebuild something. But we can’t rebuild the trust if the other person doesn’t acknowledge their abusive behaviour or neglect. We can’t rebuild the connection if the other person won’t take accountability for their actions. We can’t expect an apology from someone unwilling to communicate it either. And, quite crucially, we need to learn to not base our own healing on the actions of those that harm us. Don’t wait for an apology to heal.

People also lie. Some more than others. Some to themselves. So sometimes the apology is a lie. It can sound authentic. It can relieve the harm caused. It can feel and even be genuine. But sometimes it’s not enough because the well crafted apology is followed by a repetition or similar poor behaviour. They said they learned but it was lip service. Or the lesson was lost.

And some people don’t apologise. They don’t see they’ve done anything wrong so why should they? Which is fair enough, because we should never take accountability for actions we didn’t do. Accidents happen. Intentions go awry. Nobody is perfect. But sometimes an explanation can go a long way and a lesson can still be learned.

But, if a person causes harm and doesn’t apologise, that’s very disturbing. Someone says “you did x and it caused y to happen which I am not happy about/has caused me injury.” Silence is not the option. It’s difficult to hear words like that. It can be very unsettling. But that’s not an excuse to hide.

We’ve all made mistakes and apologised. We must try to learn. We should do our best to try to engage healthily. Some people are too angry to hear good intentions, for whatever reason, and will act accordingly. Time and space are important factors in this.

I was reflecting on how can we ever really know if an apology is genuine? A therapist I’m working with suggested asking “What do they get from the apology?” Go beyond the apology itself and what we want from it. What do they want from us? Greater connection? Or sex? Control over you? Money? Services? Time? Resources? Think about how you may be being manipulated and a precursor to further harm and/or abuse.

These are my personal thoughts and reflections. I’m not a mental health professional. Please seek professional help if issues raised here cause you concern.

And don’t accept apologies if you don’t want to.

featured image: Self tied decorative chest harness amongst jasmine by Dea Nexa

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