I know there are people out there who breeze through life effortlessly – and to them I say, “it’s not fair!”
Obviously I was not one of those people. I always seemed to take the longest, hardest road to happiness and peace. Thankfully there was a benefit of this. I became aware that I needed to become “aware.” I began looking for the lessons in all of my experiences so that I could grow from them. I found that they are everywhere. The more painful the experience, the greater the potential for growth. Although, admittedly, the light at the end of the tunnel can sometimes be difficult to find.
Stories can illuminate the meaning of our experiences. I’d like to share with you my stories of insight so that you may see the end of your tunnel more effortlessly. There’s such peace and happiness waiting for you!
As a kid I learned that apologizing for my less than perfect behavior was a very effective method of releasing any guilt. So I did it all the time. “I’m sorry” became a bit of a mantra with me – I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Oh, I’m sooo sorry! Back then, I wasn’t overly concerned with hurting someone. I figured I could just apologize and be done with it. If my apology wasn’t accepted I became indignant; “Well, if you can’t accept my apology that’s your problem!” Those were the good old days!
As we grow, the need for an authentic apology grows as well. As a responsible adult you’re expected to do and say the “right” things. If you don’t, you’re considered irresponsible. The difference between an irresponsible kid and an irresponsible adult is significant. You’re supposed to know better as an adult – and are held accountable for the things you do and say – especially when it comes to relationships.
But being aware of your own accountability can make it hard to say, “I’m sorry.” It can feel like you’re admitting to a personal flaw or failure. What if your apology isn’t accepted? Just the thought of this can prevent the apology from happening at all. Walking away from rejection without a care in the world isn’t so easy any more.
But here’s what I learned (the hard way) about apologizing. It begins with forgiving yourself first. For example, say you’ve made a mistake and you’re aware that you’ve hurt someone. Does this make you flawed – or did you just make a mistake? Words synonymous with mistake: blooper, blunder, boo-boo, faux pas, oversight, slip, etc. These versions of the word feel kinder and less dense, don’t you think? For many of us, when we think we made a mistake it blares in our head as I am bad, making it feel very personal. This brings up all kinds of negative emotions which make it pretty hard to forgive ourselves. If we can’t forgive ourselves why would we believe anyone else can or should?
Most times, when I apologized to a person before I had completely forgiven myself, it didn’t go so well. Even if the person responded as if they totally accepted my apology I wasn’t able to believe I had been truly forgiven. I still felt bad about what I had done. The times when they clearly did not accept my apology were even worse. Not only did I feel bad about myself, I also became defensive and angry with them, because they weren’t giving me what I wanted/needed (which was their approval). If I was being very honest with myself, I’d admit that I also wanted to control how they felt (which is impossible).
Eventually I learned that if I forgive myself first for having made a faux pas, I could then let go of the need to be forgiven by an outside source. This allowed me to be authentic with the person I hurt because I was not looking for anything in return. I could then share with them what I’d learned about myself – and the measures I was on the road to taking to change my behavior.
The best part of all this is: Even if the person, for whatever reason, can’t forgive your blunder, you still get to walk away with a sense of freedom! You can send a silent wish hoping that they too will be able to experience this type of self love one day, but you don’t have to.
Denise Barry is the award winning author of the childrens picture books, What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth? and Soap On A Rope. Shes currently working on a middle grade book titled Sweeney Mack and the Slurp and Burp Competition, so watch for that! She also writes a blog on her website called Raisin' Kids, for parents who want to raise kids who become adults, not adult children. Denise lives in Buffalo, New York with her husband and two kids. To learn more about her visit her website at www.denisebarry.net