At this time of year many of us are focused on giving and receiving gifts one way or another. It might be through exchanging presents with family and friends over the festive season and/or also offering gifts in the form of charitable donations. Others will give the gift of their time in terms of volunteering and acts of kindness and service within their wider community. It is a wonderful time of the year to show love and care to those we know and those we don’t in the form of giving. There is also another very special gift that we can all give and that is the gift of an apology.
Most of us at one time or another have said or done things that have hurt or upset those we love and care about. It is often in fact those that we are closest to that bear the brunt of our poor choices and unkind words or deeds. Many people when they are under stress or at a low ebb can say or do things that they later regret. Examples might include the way we treated our children when they were small and we were stressed and exhausted or how little time we spend with our family because of over working, the sarcastic remarks or ‘jokes’ delivered towards family or friends when our tank is empty and fuse short. There are also the bigger apologies required of us all if we are courageous enough to dare. For the affairs or betrayals of the heart, or our ‘failings’ and ‘mistakes’ that have harmed those we care about. For when our addictions have taken priority and cost our loved ones dearly. And for all the many times we may have used words as weapons. Or the many moments when sorry was required of us but we said nothing.
Of course our egos do not like this idea at all. Far more important to be ‘right’, save face or to ‘win’. But at what cost? Those unspoken apologies breed shame and guilt inside each of us and lead to resentment and bitterness over time within those deserving of our ‘sorry’s’. It is very hard for love to flow and trust to be rebuilt without the healing language of an apology. This language includes taking responsibility for what we have done and why. It can mean facing up to some unpleasant truths about our character and admitting them to others, ’I was selfish’, ‘I wanted to hurt you’, ‘I was weak’. And then finding meaningful ways to make amends wherever possible and when safe to do so. Because living out our Apology through how we choose to behave and speak as we move forward is healing in action.
Not only can a heartfelt apology offer sweet relief to the giver, it can feel like a healing balm applied to the wounds of the people we have hurt. Once these precious words are spoken and received, fractures in our relationships can truly begin to mend. Trust can start to be rebuilt. Word by word, deed by deed. The process of forgiveness can begin.
So as we race towards the end of this decade, I invite you to consider who you need to apologise to and for what. How might you reach out to the people you love and speak these simple and yet profound words? ‘I was wrong, I know I’ve hurt you. I’m so very sorry’. The details in the ‘why’ you are sorry, are also very important, as is the intention. Because for these healing words to land inside another’s heart, they must first have come from yours.
Donna Lancaster – Co Founder of The Bridge Retreat