By J.L. Whitehead
Over the course of your lifetime, it is probably safe to assume two things: 1.You will probably hurt someone. 2. Someone will probably hurt you. Things happen. We are not perfect. We say and do things; sometimes with malicious intent and sometimes in sheer innocence. Sometimes, we may do or say things that may impact someone else without giving thought to what our actions or words may cause. And by the time we realize that we’ve done something, the damage has been done. Feelings are hurt, trust has been compromised and relationships are severed. Now, the outcome of something done when you’re not aware of it is one thing, but what if you know what you’ve done? What if you’re the friend that has said something in truth, but it may not have painted the best picture of the person you were talking about? What happens when your comments go viral? What happens when someone you care about repeatedly hurts you over and over; maybe a parent, spouse or friend? And what do you do to address it? Do you call them on their behavior? Do you pull them aside and tell them what they’ve done? And if you do, what happens if they deny it; or worse yet, act like nothing has been done? What do you do with your feelings then?
As human beings, we can sometimes get caught up in the “whys” of circumstances that are beyond our control. We will sometimes replay those “whys” in our mind, wanting to put the past behind us, maybe hoping that the person that hurt us would just acknowledge what was done and then make amends for it. Most people have the capacity to forgive unless it’s hardwired into your DNA to hold on to every painful experience that you had to endure at the hands of someone else. But oftentimes, what goes hand in hand with forgiveness is the need to know that the person who caused us pain in the first place feels some type of remorse for what they’ve said or done. And this is where the “disconnect” occurs for some of us. There are parents that may hurt their children and call it “parenting”. There are people that do things deliberately and would rather cut off their own arm than admit that they hurt you. There are people that hurt people in the guise of speaking the truth, take the position that they are “keeping it real” and that the person that they’ve offended should never have done what they allegedly did in the first place. Never mind the fact that what they said, regardless of whether it is true or not, was never their place to speak on from the beginning. But people are people. People do and say things all the time…and at times, we hurt one another; sometimes badly.
A young woman had begun therapy sessions with a psychiatrist in her attempts at gaining control of some aspects of her life that she thought she had lost. She talked repeatedly about obtaining the closure that she needed because she suffered at the hands of an abusive mother. The therapist advised that she should go and talk to her mother, but to her surprise, the woman acknowledged that her mother was deceased. Indeed, she had spent the last ten years having conversations in her mind with her mother, going over what she would say and finding out the answers that she needed to give her the sense of peace that constantly eluded her. She explained that the conversations would revolve in her mind like a black carousel, and she wanted to get off but didn’t know how. Her therapist asked her if she could say anything to her mother right now, what would it be? The woman replied that she wanted to know “why”. Why did her mother treat her the way she did? The therapist then asked her what she wanted to hear from her mother, and the woman tearfully replied that she wanted to know that she was good, and she wanted her mother to acknowledge her pain. After giving the matter some thought, the therapist advised the woman to go home and write a letter to her mother. In that letter, she was to tell her mother everything she felt and to hold nothing back. She then told her patient that this would hopefully break the conversation that she was having in her heart and give her a sense of peace. She had to write the letter to get whatever she was feeling off and out of her head thus quelling the voice that kept her pain alive. Now this didn’t “cure” the woman. She still had many sessions to go before she reached a point where she could let go of some of her pain, but this was a step in the right direction.
But what happens if the person is still alive and in your life? Sure, you could talk to them and hope that they would give you what you need which for some of us is the “I’m sorry”. Most times, “I’m sorry” works if it’s genuine and heartfelt. Unfortunately, “I’m sorry” is used so often that it’s lost its meaning. Many people say it whether they mean it or not. Only you can gauge the sincerity of the person apologizing to you, but if it’s heartfelt, most times, the apology is accepted and the two people can start over. Sometimes, people cling to the misconception that they’ve done anything wrong at all no matter how many times you tell them that they did. People do things for different reasons, but most of the time, they cling to that belief because they don’t know what to do with the challenge that they’ve done anything wrong at all. They may very well know it, but most people don’t want to acknowledge anything less than the good in them. To acknowledge anything less would be a direct challenge to their view of themselves as being a wonderful and decent human being. Simply put, it’s easier to hold on to the notion that you’ve never hurt anyone than to admit that you did and make amends for it. But that doesn’t help the person that’s been hurt. Depending on the relationship you had as well as what was done or said, the offended party can go for days, months, years or decades in pain.
So here’s a thought…if someone comes to you and tells you that you’ve hurt them, own up to the possibility that maybe you did. Because the simple reality is that if someone is telling you this, it means that they’re hurt, and whether it was intentional or not, you are the cause. What this will do is open the door to talk about whatever the issue is, and in many cases, the situation can be resolved. If there was a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of intent, it will come out in the conversation.
If you’re on the receiving end of a scenario where someone has hurt you, once again, you can talk to them about it. Hopefully, it can clear the air. But sometimes, you may have to settle for not getting what you initially wanted from the individual which is an apology from the heart. If that is the case, you may need to take some drastic measures to keep from having the same conversation over and over again in your mind. If you’re the kind of person that can dismiss it and keep moving, then by all means, do that. Whatever it takes, keep it moving and don’t let anyone steal your joy.
Apologizing is a lost art and not everyone is equipped to do it. It takes an exceptional person to admit when he or she has wronged someone. So the next time someone wrongs you or you wrong someone else, what will you do?