By Samantha McKenzie
Getting over the difficulty of offering someone an apology is often a tough pill to swallow. The first step is getting over yourself.
In 2007, when social media was slowly making its way into my circle, a classmate suggested we use Facebook to plan our reunion. I was instantly hooked and began finding friends dating back to first grade all the way through college. After months of rekindling friendships and going down memory lane, I remembered that there was one person I had to find. I began the search for an ex-boyfriend from my early college years. The brick in my tummy reminded me I had a 20-year-old apology waiting for him and it was long overdue. Within minutes of executing a search, his name appeared. I began our conversation through the message box, not really sure of what I would say. When the hello’s and what have you been up to’s were over, I finally asked for his number. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to say for years,” I typed. I called him that day. Although I was nervous, I knew one thing for sure: I had loved the person he was to me and because of that, I owed him an apology.
Deep breath in and out came, “I’m sorry. I’ve been wanting to apologize for so long but I didn’t know how to reach you. I know the way I ended our relationship was hurtful. I was young and scared and immature.” He listened and I went on. When I was finished, he told me thank you. He explained how he felt during that season of our relationship and how he was able to move on. My apology was accepted. The weight was removed and from then on the rest of our words flowed like water.
We are still friends to this day and I feel so much better for the experience of having to say I’m sorry.
To get over the hump, I learned the following things:
- I had to get over myself. I mean I had to talk to my ego. I had to connect with the part of me that thinks I never do anything wrong and the part of me that says “they just took it the wrong way.” The part of myself that would rather think I was misunderstood than confess that I was dead wrong. I’m human and sometimes my words or actions hurt other people’s feelings. I should apologize for that.
- I had to be genuine. This wasn’t hard for me to do. I found the place inside of me that cares for others and wants the best for them. I knew that if he couldn’t feel my sincerity, my apology would be in vain. I took the time to do some introspection and got honest about what I had done wrong. I needed to apologize for my behavior.
- I put the other person first. It wasn’t about me anymore. During this conversation, I focused on how he was feeling and I focused on what he needed to feel whole. I put aside the fact that while I didn’t mean to injure him, I still did. And the old saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, suddenly became crystal clear.
- I listened better. We all have past experiences that have shaped our identity. There’s no “one shoe fits all method” for having friendships and relationships. When I truly listened to him, I learned that both of our experiences led us to this point and that was just a fact of life. I experienced listening to his pain, his memories and his journey. I committed to becoming a better person in this moment.
- I wanted to repair what I had broken. If there was a way to make it up to him, I would. I stayed in touch and decided that I would show him that he had a friend in me. If there’s a way to make it better, do so. If you’re not sure how to accomplish that, just ask. How can I make this better?
- I didn’t want to be a repeat offender. Now I work on choosing my words wisely and if I know I offended someone, I try to correct it quickly. Letting time linger on is damaging and it’s weighty. I used this failure to help me become the best me possible.
I’m sure there are more ways to get over the hump. If you have some, please share with me. I like to believe that saying please, thank you and I’m sorry are free. There’s no cost to use them. And so I continue to practice giving them away freely.