Thanksgiving is over and we move faster and faster into the retail season formerly known as the holiday season. There has been lots going on in my life, and it recently occurred to me that Thanksgiving goes hand in hand with apologies and forgiveness. Many think these are two sides of the same coin, but I disagree. Apologies and forgiveness usually go hand in hand, but they can also stand on their own.
I don’t think “I’m sorry” is really an apology; I translate “I’m sorry” to either “You caught me doing something I shouldn’t have, but if you hadn’t noticed I would still be doing it.” or “You’re obviously pissed about something and I think I know what it is but there is no reason why you should be angry”. Think of just about anyone in Hollywood or politics.
An apology is offered be one person to another in recognition for some wrong doing. It’s not enough to simply say “I apologize” though, because that fails to acknowledge what the person is apologizing for. A real apology incudes detail on what the person did that hurt the other, and an acknowledgement that the other was in fact hurt in some way. Going on to justify why what the person did to the other was right, in their best interest, or for the greater good isn’t helpful. If that requires explanation, then a consideration of whether or not the discussion is an apology or a “sorry” is probably in order.
Forgiveness is offered inwardly first, and may have an outward expression later. We forgive for ourselves, so that we can move forward. It is sometimes easier to forgive someone after they have genuinely apologized, but if a person can forgive without the apology then I think they are better off. Forgiveness is an accepting of the person – it is not agreement with the situation. One may, for example, forgive ones partner for cheating on them without agreeing that it was a good thing. We forgive people, not situations. Accepting one for who they are, good or bad, is forgiveness.
Which brings me to the time travel discussion. Apologies may be given and forgiveness may be offered, but in the end that doesn’t mean that the people involved go back to the way things were before the transgression. You’ve heard people say things like “Well, I apologized!” or “Yes, I’ve forgiven you!” before. These comments are usually made when one of the people feels that everything should go back to the way it used to be. Things can go back, but they don’t have to – there is a choice to be made after forgiveness, with our without an apology. The decision, to be made by the forgiver, is whether or not the other person is still welcome in their life and if so, in what way. No matter how much the apologizer (or other person if no apology was offered) might like things to go back to the way they were before, it’s up to the forgiver to decide and be comfortable with the decision. It’s not easy, but in the end it’s for the best.
Apologies and forgiveness do not a time machine make.
I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving.