Here’s the Apology You Should Never Make! – Thousand Thoughts

There is nothing good to be said about apologizing to a person who truly does not want to hear another word from you.

A woman named Betty slept with the husband of her friend, Celina. Celina was clear with Betty that she wanted no further contact with her. Celina put Betty out of her mind, as best as she could, as she and her husband worked to heal their marriage after the affair was out in the open.

Several years later, when Betty was working the twelve steps in her AA program, her sponsor encouraged her to examine her actions to see if she had harmed anyone in her past, and advised her to pick up her phone and make direct amends.

Betty got Celina’s cell phone number from a mutual acquaintance and left a voice message saying that sleeping with her husband was the worst mistake she had ever made, and that she wanted to meet for coffee so she could “make amends” and “tell her part of the story.”

Celina felt re-traumatized hearing Betty’s voice on the phone, and Betty’s request stirred up all the tumultuous feelings that she had worked so hard to put aside. Betty called a second time with the same message adding, “I think that if you know my part of the story, you might be able to forgive me.”

When Celina wisely chose not to respond, Betty then sent her a letter expressing her remorse and asking for forgiveness. Celina threw it in the garbage. Betty’s insistence on reentering Celina’s life felt to Celina like another violation.

Betty needs to forgive herself, but her process of self-forgiveness should not involve contacting Celina.  The purpose of an apology is to calm and soothe the hurt party, not to agitate or pursue her because you have the impulse to connect, explain yourself, and lower your guilt quotient.

If the other person has clearly said, “Leave me alone,” or, “I’ll get in touch with you when I’m ready,” the appropriate response is to leave them alone.  This means no flowers, gifts, texts, calls, emails or “I’m sorrys” sent by pony express or carrier pigeon.

Apologizing to someone who wants to be left alone may make you feel better for fifteen minutes, but if it’s at the other person’s expense, it’s not really good for you either.

Sometimes the only good apology is getting out of the other person’s space.


Author: Harriet Lerner

Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.


Source: Psychology Today

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