Everyone does a little dirt. It’s the American way, and learning the art of an apology, albeit phony, forced and insincere, is about as American as apple pie.
Admittedly, I have dirt on my hands. I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself dirty, but on a scale of Meryl Streep slave shirts to Donald Trump, my shortcomings barely register on the Dirty Meter. I have just enough dirt on my hands to know that somewhere out there is, or should be, a support group for the people I’ve wronged. It’s the dumped boyfriends, the acquaintances whose could-be friendship I never watered, the husband I didn’t show enough affection to, the guy I led on, the ones I took for granted and the ones who deserved an apology or reached for an olive branch that never came. It is they who deserve a seat at the support group session that will never convene. But in honor of being honest–#truthnobackspace—I am the one who’s in need of their counsel and support.
I’m not skilled at apologizing. In fact, of all the deadly sins, pride will certainly be the one that keeps me from entering the pearly gates. Blame it on growing up with more than enough first cousins and extended family to make me believe that I had no more room for friends. Or blame it on my nothing lasts forever, so why try attitude that has kept me in the “no new friends” zone. Whatever the cause of my unsharpened skills, I’ve only dished out a few apologies and saved the others for when I’d inevitably offend a close friend or relative deserving of a Grade A apology. Thankfully, I don’t score high enough on the Dirty Meter and have little use for practicing my apology skills because I don’t routinely offend, not counting drivers, bike riders who don’t ride their bikes on the sidewalk, biking trail or park, and my uncooperative eyebrows that are never on fleek.
Though I consider myself an overall good person and a very loving and supportive friend, I’ve also been accused of being guarded and shut off. At one point I coveted the idea that I was some mysterious girl, a real life Rubik’s Cube—a quintillion moves and only one solution. Now I realize that being guarded and shut off isn’t a novelty, it’s the equivalent of the nearly unsolvable cube: difficult, frustrating, and after a few moves, abandoned. It may be the Rubik’s Cube effect that has led me take inventory of my friendships and could-be-but-never-given-a-chance friendships and conclude that while I love my friends, I have robbed myself and others from forming beautiful long lasting bonds at best, and at worst an opportunity for growth.
I’m not sure if it’s my feelings of self-induced abandonment, my age and growing sense of maturity and self-acceptance, or the love I’ve always had for others but often missed the mark on how to express, that has directed me to a place of responsibility and remorse. Now, more than ever, I want to hone my apology skills. I figure these steps are a good start.
Be honest. If the sole purpose of apologizing is more about repairing a stained reputation than it is about owning responsibility and feeling remorseful, stop and return to sender.
Forgive self. Apologies, in a perfect world, end in hugs and kisses, an invitation for drinks that may or may not come to fruition, and forgiveness from the person on the receiving end of a sincere apology. Ironically enough, to get to the point of asking for forgiveness, it’s necessary that one forgive oneself. It may very well be the only forgiveness one will receive.
Acknowledge wrongdoing and accept responsibility. Woman up! Accept responsibility for negative behaviors and actions. When accepting responsibility the words “I apologize for” must be present and in that order. If not, stop. Return to sender. For the record, “I apologize that you feel that way” is some bullish from way back and even if it were on sale at the dollar store, no one is buying it.
Provide an explanation. I know. “I don’t have to explain myself!” comes with the “growing up a black girl” handbook. However, we’re women now. A sincere apology comes with an openhearted explanation for past behavior. The truth is the vaccine to many chronic-and-acute illnesses, dead, dying and on life support friendships being one. A truthful explanation has the power to heal and increase immunity against future foolishness.