Stop Accepting Apologies That Aren't Accompanied By Changed Behavior
Updated: Mar 26
When we're young children we are often taught to apologize for misbehavior or hurting someone's feelings. Those corrections often came with punishment in my house - so much so that I knew as a child that my sorry had to be met with some sort of change. I couldn't just behave badly, get in trouble, say sorry, and then go back to doing exactly what I did before. A chancleta (or chancla) would undoubtedly be boomeranged around a corner for my ass. I'm assuming most of the people in my circle had similar upbringings.
When is the last time you had to forgive someone for hurting you or offending you in some way? Did your forgiveness come as a response to their sincerity? Or was it an exasperated response to a person whose "sorries" are plentiful and often meaningless?
I've learned a lot about the word "sorry" in my life and how empty it can often be. Looking back at my friendships and relationships it saddens me to think about how many times we have all had the burden of forgiveness that we knew would not be accompanied by action. Complicating this burden is the empty apologies so many of us tend to receive from people who we're expected to love unconditionally: parents, close friends, other family members, and partners.
I had to say goodbye to a friend of almost a decade this year, and it was easily one of the most painful experiences of my life. It was a tough decision to make that only came as the result of a million "I'm sorry's" with no real changed behavior. Although I miss my friend and will continue to it was something I had to do to protect myself. Continuing to accept apologies while also expecting to be hurt again was causing me even more pain. Despite not wanting to lose them, I cut contact because I knew I couldn't expect their actions to change.
Too many people have the idea that the word sorry is enough, regardless of whether or not remorse is attached. "I said I'm sorry" is supposed to mean something to the person who has been hurt. We're supposed to be willing to forgive in an instant. We're supposed to feel instantly renewed from the pain we felt just moments (or years) before. Words are beautiful - but words without actions are empty, soulless, and deceiving. If you're reading this I'm asking you to promise yourself two things in your effort to be a better person:
1. Stop accepting apologies that aren't accompanied by changed behavior
2. Stop expecting forgiveness you haven't worked for.
No one owes you forgiveness; whether you work for it or not. Forgiveness is entirely up to the person who has been hurt. Still, it says so much more about you if you work consciously to remedy whatever actions caused someone pain to begin with. On the opposite end, you are doing yourself a disservice by essentially rewarding those who hurt or offend you by not asserting your expectations. If you hurt me, I expect you to do better. I expect you not to do it again. I expect you to change or alter the language or behavior that hurt me in the first place.
If you're sorry, I expect you to be sorry enough to change.
Edit: I've gotten a few messages after publication regarding my thoughts on forgiveness. I want to be clear that this post is NOT telling you not to forgive people. Forgiveness is entirely for you, and it is encouraged. However, forgiving does not require you to continue interacting with or supporting people who continue to harm you. You can forgive at a distance in a way that still protects you and your emotional well-being.
- Jeaiza Q.