The Expectations of an Apology
When somebody says “I’m sorry”, what do you want that to mean?
Do you think an apology should mean permanent behavior change?
Does that mean that you don’t want the apology until they heal and change their behavior?
How would you feel if they never apologized because they weren’t able to heal and change their behavior? What kind of crazy story would you tell then? You’d probably start telling the story of how they don’t take responsibility for their own behavior because they didn’t apologize. But then when they apologize for their behavior but aren’t able to change it, that’s not good enough. Do you see the loop you’ve created for yourself?
Creating an expectation that apologies mean permanent behavior change creates a problem for us. Lot of people do this but all it really does is keep us stuck in the pain.
An apology is very simply a recognition that their behavior at some point in time was not okay. It is not a reflection of the ability to heal or permanently change their behavior.
Can you allow that recognition to be enough?
Expecting a permanent behavior change from an apology essentially demands the other person do the work to heal themselves. But what if they can’t get there right then?
That’s when you decide the apology was disingenuous. That’s when you decide they didn’t mean what they said. But that’s just a trick of perception based on your expectations. They recognized their behavior was crappy and they apologized for it, they just aren’t able to fix it. Your expectation that apologies mean permanent behavior change is your problem, not theirs. That’s your interpretation of what the apology means. But it’s a really high bar that most people can’t meet. You probably can’t meet it for yourself.
If you do try to meet that bar, you’re likely sabotaging yourself and you make yourself a victim of that choice. What is that causing you to hold in, not talk about, or not react to? What is that causing you to keep to yourself? How are you victimizing yourself with that?
Meanwhile it’s all building up inside of you. You’re getting madder and madder and not doing anything about it trying to hold yourself to a crazy expectation that you’re having a really hard time meeting. So, then what happens? You blow like a top and you blame the other person for it.
What really happened? You withheld your reactions because you apologized for some behavior and then made yourself not display that behavior again. But you missed a step because you weren’t able to heal the pain that was causing the reaction in the first place. You demanded your own healing but were unable to meet your own demand and then you’re mad at the other person for trapping you in your own pain.
It’s a great story, but it’s not true. The expectation is unrealistic in most cases. If we simply accepted that apologies are only reflections of awareness of current behavior and are not a promise of change, life would be much simpler.
If the person doesn’t change their behavior, where does that leave you?
It leaves you with a choice to stay in the relationship or not.
A person that is unable to change their behavior even when they recognize it’s not okay, is doing the best they can. Your job is to accept that. Make that enough. Make that okay. It has to be okay because you can’t change it.
Demanding they heal something they can’t heal yet only hurts you. It keeps you stuck in the pain. You start to tell stories about how the apology doesn’t mean anything. They are lying to you. If they cared about you they’d change. Those stories make you victimize yourself. They hurt you. That pain is all self-created because you have a choice to leave the relationship behind.
What’s the real truth? You don’t want to leave the relationship. It’s easier to demand they heal or change than it is to recognize they are offering you a choice. They are showing you that they are not capable of healing that behavior right now. You have to accept that. You have to be okay with that. It’s not under your control, so if you’re not okay with that, you’re just going to be in pain all the time.
You’ve put your power outside of yourself. Somebody else needs to change so you can be okay.
If you want to manage yourself within the experience then you need to recognize where your point of control is. It’s not in other people. It’s not in crazy expectations of what apologies should mean. It is in simply being aware of your own ability to choose whether to stay in a given relationship or not.
Stop hurting yourself. Stop punting your power away. Stop demanding other people change.
Start making choices for yourself and lower your expectations of what apologies should mean.
Love to all.
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