Sometimes the lines we cross can never be uncrossed. Keep in mind, words cannot be unsaid and oftentimes, words hurt. They can scar. Words can destroy to a level that no apology can ever repair. Yet, in the fit of anger or in the heat of the moment, we can say things that we wish we never said.
We do things we wish we never did. And what do we say later on when we apologize? We say we didn’t mean it. We blame what we said on our anger or on another source. Yet still, although what we said was due to a momentary stressor; or maybe we were just angry; maybe we were reacting to something else which had nothing to do with the situation at hand. Regardless of our intention, the interpretation was taken drastically different. Therefore, after the argument comes the aftermath. After the fights come the apologies or the absence thereof, in which case, relationships face the breaking point. Good connections go wrong because of an argument that went too far.
We tend to say things that we don’t mean. Or yet, we say things which we do mean. When the levee breaks, we say what we have been thinking about for a long time. However, when the anger bursts, an instance became the catalyst and all the resentments and all the hurtful opinions will rush through the floodgates like a dam that broke free. Regardless of our heartfelt apology, sometimes the damage is irreparable. The consequences of our actions can be irreversible. This is what happens when resentments go wrong.
There are times when the best thing we can do is remove ourselves to let someone heal. It is also important to understand that an apology offered more than once is no longer an apology. This becomes a system of manipulation.
If we continue to apologize then the apology is no longer about the wrongs we committed, but more accurately, our apologies are just a means so that we can feel better about what we did.
This becomes a means to achieve a personal gain. Also, the more we apologize, the more we introduce the memory of what we did or said. This, in fact, is the opposite of what an apology is supposed to do. An apology is not supposed to be about personal redemption. Also, an apology is best served by a change of action and behavior, which means, and put as simply as possible, sometimes the best way to apologize after the apology is to be sure to not make the same mistakes again. Change behavior. Stop saying hurtful things. Stop doing the same things that upset someone. If you upset them, why not leave them alone and let them heal? This is a great way to apologize. The internal torture of the humiliation one feels is ego; this is also a need to absolve guilt; this is the need to solve the vulnerable ideas which come with the exposure of our actions. And to apologize to someone to solve this dilemma is unfair and insincere.
There is a step that I took about those who I had harmed in my life. When I was ready and became willing to make amends with them all, I realized that my amends were not always on my terms. Also, I had to learn how to make my amends, except when doing so would injure them or others.
And what does this mean?
This means to injure or harm; this means that once I reached the ability to improve and make my amends to several of my disservices, I had to understand that I did not want to hurt anyone (including myself) nor did I want to create more injustice. In many cases, I had to come up with a means of equal repayment, plus interest, to satisfy the debts of either financial or emotional violations.
During this lesson, I learned that sometimes the best apology is to leave someone alone. Let them find their happiness. I have found ways to repay my debts – or at least, to me, this is what I call them. There are times when I said things to people, maybe strangers, maybe they were acquaintances or maybe they were people I knew well enough to call family or friends, and as a means to reach my amends, I chose humility.
I chose to understand that my apologies were not about me. No. In order to be heartfelt, my apologies had nothing to do with me.
This is true, except of course, this is different when the apologies were directed at me. I learned there were three people that I often forgot to apologize to, which were me, myself and I. I had to learn how to apologize to myself and secondly, I had to learn the hard lesson of how to forgive myself. I had to learn how to stay away from blame and the ideas of fault or shame. I had to stop looking at my wrongs as if they were enormous, insurmountable aspects. And yes, I have my share of mistakes. I have crossed boundaries which led to both personal and professional humiliation. I have said things in which, regardless of my intention, the interpretation was taken far more drastically than I could have possibly imagined.
How do I apologize for this? Or better yet, how do I forgive myself? The answer is easy. Yes, I made mistakes. The best way towards penance is to start by not making the same mistakes again. The best way to improve and accept my past is to make the adjustments I need to be sure that this sort of thing does not happen anymore.
I was reminded of this when scrolling through the pictures on my social media feed. There was a caption which read, “We are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm. Some have yachts, some have canoes, and some are drowning. Just be kind to people and help whoever you can.”
I have a fear of drowning. This is not the same as drowning under water. No, this is a different sense altogether. I have felt this before – the drowning, I mean. I’ve drowned in my doubts and regrets. I’ve drowned in my sorrow. I’ve drowned to the point that I don’t ever want to drown again.
I heartily accept the idea that a person can make mistakes but mistakes do not make the person. Safe to say that I’ve made mistakes. Safe to say that I have made the same mistakes, more than twice. Safe to say that I am imperfect. I am a work in progress. No one among us is able to claim perfect adherence, right? We claim spiritual progress, not perfection, right?
Safe to say that I have progressed. Safer to say the day I progressed the most is the same day I chose to step away from torturing myself for my past because oddly enough, the more I focused on my wrongs, the more my past would repeat itself. In order to forgive me, I had to learn how to break this chain. Otherwise, I’d just be stuck in the same old process, which leads me to the two greatest, most empowering words we can combine together.
Not anymore . . .
I love those words. In many cases, they define me well.
Sure, I did things wrong. Sure, I made mistakes.
I used to do things that I am certainly not proud of, but you know what?
That used to be me.