On Humility and Apologies

Monday, April 6, 2015 / 2:52 PM

"Don't be sorry. Be here."
One of the most difficult words to say sometimes is "sorry." I don't think anyone actually enjoys apologizing. It means acknowledging you wronged someone. It's a blow to your pride. Sometimes we say sorry and don't really mean it; other times, we say it but follow it up with a cushion for our ego: "Sorry I spilled hot coffee all over your laptop, but..."

Recently, someone from my past sent me an email that was a straight apology for something that happened about two years ago. There was no ego in it, no hidden subtext. It was am "I'm sorry"--period--and it can't have been easy for her to send. Two years ago upon our falling out, there had been a lot of finger pointing and false apologies on both ends. But this email was different. There was something gracious about her words, something admirable about the way she took on the burden of responsibility on her own. Although I know both of us played equal roles in the end of our friendship then, her email, to me, meant there were more important things in the world than our bruised feelings from the past.

With no expectations, she humbled herself by reaching out. It made me think about the "prisons" we keep others in, whether we intend to or not, because we're angry or hurt. Sometimes, someone says something to you that really hurts you, and rather than try to fix the situation, you close up and turn down a different road. Perhaps a year ago if she sent me this email, I wouldn't have responded. Or I would have emailed back and reminded her how much she upset me.

There's this part of that really popular Corinthians passage that everyone quotes at weddings--you know the one I'm talking about: "Love is patient, love is kind, etc. etc." It's a passage that's about this perfect, unconditional love--this love bestowed upon us by a higher power--and there's part of it that says, "it keeps no record of wrongs." Love--God, Jesus--keeps no record of wrongs. And if God isn't keeping score of all our wrongs, then why are we?

This doesn't mean a blanket policy of "forgive and forget." I think it's OK to accept an apology and move on without that person in your life. But I thought about all of the things this girl wrote to me, and I just have to believe she has the best intentions because I know her heart and while we all do things that upset others, she could never be malicious.

And I have to give her the benefit of the doubt. I want to, because I miss her.

I replied with an acknowledgement that I had made mistakes in our past too. Deep down, for the past two years, I knew I made mistakes and I hurt her too. I was stubborn to admit it before, and scared that if I reached out first and admitted fault, she would never own up to the things she said and did that hurt me in the first place.

I'm humbled by her own humility and it's made me realize that there are some things in life that are more important than preserving my pride. And if it means I don't get an apology for something I feel entitled to (let's be honest--are any of us really "entitled" to an apology from someone else? We might believe we deserve an apology, but an apology--at least a genuine one--is not ours to demand from someone else.), then that's OK. I don't want to subconsciously hold others in prisons when I'm equally, if not more so, at fault for bruised feelings and broken hearts.

Sometimes our apologies don't go the way we want them to, but it's not up to us to write our own endings in these matters. We do what we can to right the wrongs of our past, and if the scenario doesn't play out as we hoped, then there's no point in being angry or disappointed. We shouldn't apologize for our actions just to make ourselves feel better. As this friend and I pick back up where we left off, her presence in my life is a reminder of the kind of unselfish humility that I hope to aspire to.

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