I’m pretty big on taking personal responsibility.
Some people in life have trouble apologizing–if I see that I’ve done wrong, I’m happy to apologize. Step right up, Swoboda is here, and she’s ready to make amends.
I’ve joked (though I’m somewhat serious) that, given how many mistakes I’ve made in this lifetime, it’s a good thing I’m not too humble to apologize. In fact, it’s one of my best qualities.
Here’s my hurdle, though–perhaps it’s yours, too: I find it more challenging to apologize when I don’t trust that the recipient is going to receive it with compassion and take a moment to own their part, as well.
Everyone has a part
Yes, that’s right–everyone. It wouldn’t be “conflict” if everyone didn’t have some kind of part to play in it.
Offering an apology, to me, often feels like a sense of relief. I’ve done wrong, and I want to make right. My heart is right there on my sleeve, and I’m vulnerable and naked (emotionally, of course) and wanting connection (alright, people, get your minds out of the gutter…).
But, ugh–that relief is short-lived if I offer the apology and see a hardening of the eyes, a tight purse of the lips, a lift of the nose into the air, perhaps a disgusted-sounding “Well, thank you!” that carries a tone of, “Damn straight–it’s about time you apologized, bitch. You OWED me that.”
Yeah. I don’t do so well with that.
Have I done it before, to someone else? Given them the “you really screwed up” cold shoulder when they apologized? Of course.
My most powerful relationships have been those where someone was mature enough to say, gently, “I notice that it doesn’t feel like my apology was really received. Is this really cleaned up?”
That kind of love and compassion has afforded me the second chance that (secretly, way down deep) I was hoping for.
Humility Is Good
The thing is, no one wants to feel like a shit-head who messed everything up, even when we were the one acting like a shit-head who messed everything up.
And since, 99.9% of the time, there’s always something that both parties can take some kind of responsibility for--somewhere along the way!–I’ll share with you something powerful that I’ve noticed…
…when someone apologizes to me, it’s really helpful if I’ll get my Ego off of making sure that they delivered an apology for their wrongs, and instead place my energy on owning my part, too.
It creates the very best kind of win-win, because honestly–it can’t truly feel good to sit there holding a grudge after someone apologized, anyway.
So why not drop it? Why not let them off the hook? Why not take this opportunity to practice love in the form of not making them the shit-head who screwed everything up?
And then–then there are those times when you’re the one offering the apology, and you’re on the receiving end. Someone wants you to feel like a shit-head. End of story.
First, take a moment to do this (privately): BLECCH!!!
I mean, really get it out there, because that sort of behavior leaves a nasty taste in one’s mouth, and I’m not going to give you any hippy-dippy affirmations to try and pretend otherwise.
Now you get this chance to practice being an adult.
As Cheri Huber says, “Almost no one wants to grow up.”
The challenge is this: someone needs to. You could watch two parties argue with one another and dub whiny, kid-like voices onto everything that they say, and you’d see quickly enough that there are two triggered little kids bitching at one another (“Well you said…” and “No, you said that first!” and “But it wasn’t FAIR when…”).
What’s behind the mean-ness that would drive someone to make you feel like a shit-head when you’re trying to make things right? The same thing that would drive you to do it to someone else–you’re still hurt. You’re not yet open to the apology.
Perhaps there’s a fear of a loss of power. There’s definitely a fear of a loss of some maintained identity (“It would mean I was a ‘weak person’ if I accepted an apology for what she did!”). Perhaps there’s some future tripping (“If I accept this apology, she’ll just do it all over again!”).
Get present to those voices, those Stories, and what they’re telling you. Notice how they’re shaping your experience–how, if you believe them, you have a different experience than if you choose not to believe them.
And then try this: imagine your “opponent” on the inside. Imagine the heaviness, the darkness, the pain of carrying around grudges.
You can’t control them. They control themselves. They will decide whether or not to forgive and let go.
It’s a powerful choice to own your part, apologize and make amends, and then go about the business of practicing for yourself what you want them to practice, with you–letting go.
If you know how bad it feels to hold onto this mucky stuff, then…well, what would love do? And what would love choose for them–and, for you?
(( This week, my e-letter received this blog post + a complementary exercise. My e-letter is like a free weekly e-course, a little oasis of 20 minutes to stop amidst a busy day and examine you, your life, and how to live with courage. Join in. ))