That’s all I ever wanted to hear.
Apologies imply accountability for actions, and to be accountable implies a level of maturity and self-esteem. A person who has developed self-worth as solid as a brick house can take a few hard knocks (through constructive feedback or self-examination) and remain firm and standing. But if your mortar was simply mud, and your wall built with sticks, it is too fragile for the Big Bad Wolf or anybody who may come by huffing and puffing. People living within stick walls of self-esteem can rarely accept criticism or offer apologies.
I grew up in a house made of sticks constructed by parents whose houses fared no better. I both longed for apologies, yet was unable to give them myself. I began to turn this around when I began a 12 step recovery program. The steps advocate taking a “searching and fearless” moral inventory of yourself, your behaviors, and the effects on others. And even beyond simply counting your missteps, you are encouraged to go to everyone you have harmed and make direct amends (except when to do so would cause them more injury). Gulp. I could feel the wolf coming to reduce me to toothpicks.
As I sat down with the people I had harmed and sincerely said I was sorry, I could feel the bricks begin to replace dirt, and my once muddied path became clean. The repair to my relationships was ten-fold, and the repair to my soul was a hundred-fold. It is a tragedy that so very few people understand the healing power of apology.
My father was the King of Mud Houses, and he always thought he was right. Never throughout my childhood did I ever hear him say, “I’m sorry” for any offense major or minor. In my process of healing, I asked my father several times to apologize to me. At first I wanted an apology for the incest, but later I “watered it down” and simply wanted him to apologize for something – anything. It was not until seven years of silence had passed between us, and he developed a terminal illness, that he was finally prompted to offer the only statement of remorse I would ever hear. He said he was sorry for how his lifelong compulsive overeating and obesity had affected me.
It was long overdue, but it made all the difference.