We can do some horrific things to each other. Animals out for blood, tears, thrills, or someone else’s something or someone.
Apologies are seldom good enough. But, they’re still necessary.
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” – Matthew 5:23 MSG
It might be harder, or at least more confusing, to the apology recipient than the apologizer. We feel entitled to an apology. We could even craft a flawless one to ourselves on behalf of another. It makes sense. When someone wrongs you, you’re more likely to know exactly where it hurt, what it hurt, and whether or not it still hurts. We feel we were hurt so meticulously that the apology has to be as expertly executed as the blow for which he or she is apologizing. The apology we’re looking for has to meet a certain criteria to be considered satisfactory. If the apology doesn’t come on schedule, then we think it should include an apology and sufficient justification for that, too.
You don’t know what the other person is feeling or thinking.
The wronged may be waiting for the magic letter, all the while telling people they don’t expect one. They swing from the despair of betrayal to the pride of not being the one who did the wrong. From “how could I be so stupid?” to, “they’re not worth my time.” The wronged one goes through her own journey of healing. The long road to wholeness after being damaged includes an annoying tedious task of learning how not to need an explanation or some real form of closure.
Meanwhile, the one who hurt you has to let his or her own justifications run their course. Some people take a long time before they tire of arguing inside themselves. Once they stop justifying their actions, they have to deal with the flawed version of themselves. They’ve run from the truth mirror for so long that it’s like meeting someone completely new and clearly unlikable. They have to spend time with their own thoughts. They experience anger, their own realization of years of self-betrayal and self-sabotage, and then they have to forgive themselves.
This transformation process, if they have the stamina to stick it out, can take years.
They’re identifying damaging patterns as life rolls under them and rewiring some bad connections between the past and the present. Relearning how to be a better human is a private pain of ripping everything out and deciding what stays and what goes.
A year is experiencing each calendar day only once. The deeper the wound, the more time it takes to bleed the poison out. The hurt ones have to experience each January 1 through December 31 at least once to establish an new norm for that day. The new norm is the hurt, but the next time that day comes it will be less about the disappointment and more about the survival. The third time is closer to the new norm than the years before. Count them. Healing takes time.
It’s the same long process for the one who did the wrong. Their journey looks different, but pain is pain and you can’t use your own gauge to measure the other. You’re both trying to create distance between now and then. The one who wounded you has no idea where you are in your journey. And you have no idea how they feel about what happened either.
There are so many different avenues of healing, suppression, anger, or whatever.
All they know is that what they did to you is still loose out there somewhere. Their words are still echoing, the slap is still resounding, and the doing is still done. They may want to find the origin of those words and wounds and make it known to whoever is listening that they want to disown their behavior. They can’t erase it, but they can say they were wrong. It’s not for you as much as it is for them. They need to gather up the ugly, left behind pieces of themselves and amend their previous statement.
You can say that you didn’t give them any space in your life, that they are completely nonexistent to you, but that’s a lie we tell ourselves to create distance. Lie-based indifference is a bad root that will end up an ugly weed you’ll end up hurting someone else with later. The apology may not cover everything you need to cover and it may even unearth something you thought you buried. That’s probably a good thing.
Their apology is not about you and what it unearths in you is no longer about them. It’s just an intersection that God brings us to as we’re traveling with Him. Thank them for their apology and then give God what He’s asking for.