Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those cringey open letters! I don’t have anything against open letters, per se – an open letter to someone famous or high status, that you could never hope to talk to in real life, makes sense, if you have a specific point to get across. But those ones that are basically, ‘Hey, un named person that everyone blatantly knows I’m talking about – you’re s***. I’m now going to tell you why you’re s***, but not to your face. I’m going to do it on the Internet so that hopefully lots of people will comment and agree with me and make me feel validated in my anger with you!’ Yeah, I hate those. How awkward is that? Seriously, go and hash it out in private like a grown up! No one else needs to be involved in that shiz. No, this isn’t directed at anyone specific – though it is something I’ve experienced plenty myself. It’s more an observation. Something I’ve always been annoyed by, but that seems to happen more and more lately, so in typical Steph fashion, I decided to get it off my chest and have a good old rant about it (on the Internet, where hopefully lots of people will comment and agree and validate my anger at the situation….. Yes, I do get the irony….)
We talk about being sorry a lot. People these days seem to have very strong opinions about what is right and wrong and when you should apologise to someone. We love to go around telling people that they’re in the wrong. But considering we think we know better than everyone else a lot of the time, when it comes to actually apologising to someone we care about, we just seem to be really, really bad at it! Have you ever found yourself getting wound up at someone because they’re angry with you, but even though you’ve said sorry, they don’t seem to want to forgive you?
I bet I know why. If they’re still pissed at you, there is a very good chance you immediately followed the word ‘sorry’ with the word ‘but…’ and that was your killer mistake. People seem to struggle to understand why that is a problem, but to me, it’s obvious. The important part of an apology is not the word sorry. The important part is that there is a sense of sincerity. We don’t forgive someone because they said a certain word, we forgive because we truly believe they regret whatever it was they did that hurt us. Some people seem to think that the basic act of apologising is enough, but guess what? It’s not. If you immediately follow the gesture by defending your actions or making excuses, then you completely undo any progress that had been made towards making things right. I’m sorry, but you’re really over-reacting. I’m sorry, but I’m not the one who started it. I’m sorry, but I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. I’m sorry, but you aren’t perfect yourself. All classic lines that we hear all the time – but none of them are genuine. If you’ve ever used one of those lines, what you’ve just done is add a caveat to your apology that basically says, ‘I feel like I’m meant to say sorry, but I’m actually not!’ and to the person you’ve hurt, that’s the same as taking it back.
Think about it. What does it take to forgive someone? It takes trust, it takes a belief that whatever it was, they won’t do it to you again. But if they don’t think there was anything wrong with their actions, what is to stop them repeating them? You can’t ask someone to place their trust in you if you aren’t willing to try and understand why what you did hurt them in the first place.
Some people seem to be under some missguided belief that you should only ever apologise if you hurt someone on purpose. Maybe it’s just the way this generation are wired, after being told we’re special little snowflakes who don’t need to change for anyone all our lives. Well sorry, but I’m calling bullshit (see what I did there!) If you hurt someone, you SHOULD be sorry! Maybe it wasn’t your fault. Maybe it wasn’t intentional. Maybe you genuinely never realised that action would hurt someone. But it did, and if you care about that person you SHOULD feel bad that they feel that way! Whether or not you wanted them to be hurt in the first place is completely irrelevant, so climb down off your pedestal and accept that your behaviour and your actions have real implications for those around you. Accept that sometimes you get it wrong, apologise, and try not to do it again. It may well be that a further conversation needs to be had, where you can explain yourself and work out a better way forwards, but that comes later. First you just need to appreciate how someone is feeling in the moment, and convince them that you care about making it right.
I don’t mean for this post to sound like I think I’m better at this than everyone else because I’m really not. I’m as guilty of doing this as the next person, and it’s taken me quite some time to really understand why how I was behaving was wrong. We accidentally hurt people all the time – we just do. It doesn’t make us horrible people, it just makes us human. What makes the difference between a kinda selfish human and a kind and caring one though, is knowing how to make those wrongs right, and I genuinely believe that if more people learnt how to say sorry sincerely, and take responsibility for the consequences of their words and actions, the world would be a nicer place.
Self righteous rant over…..