Apologies and Human Nature

I cannot forgive and forget. I can often do the former, but forgetting just doesn’t happen unless it is something very trivial. Perhaps this is why, a friend of mine once admitted that sometimes I could be “petty”. But let me clarify that I am by no means a vindictive, hateful person, especially when someone has realised their error and apologised.

But I often wonder – what is the point of an apology? To express that you regret whatever you wrong you have done to the other person? To express that you won’t repeat it? To ask for forgiveness? All three, perhaps? But really, do apologies help?

Some time ago, someone close to me got way too angry at a silly joke I had cracked and asked me to “not exist in their life anymore”, because I had brought nothing in his life except “irritation, anger and for a very short while, happiness”. Long story short, this person regained his senses two days later, called me, apologised, and eventually I forgave him. We’re still friends, and although I do not let this incident affect the friendship, it remains the most scathing and hurtful thing a friend has said to me, and I don’t think I will ever forget. It is a grand addition to my collection of emotional scars.

We’ve all had instances of our loved ones disappointing and hurting us, and most of us have received an apology sooner or later. But let me ask you – what does that apology even mean? The fool thinks that an apology undoes whatever it is that they have done. Many think that apologies “fix” things. But how does an apology help when you’ve shredded someone’s heart? Even if you regret whatever you’ve done, even if you will never repeat it, you’ve already caused the damage (which is sometimes irreparable). So your apology doesn’t mean a thing, especially if you don’t take it seriously. Apologies are largely futile and they lose the little meaning that they do carry if the person in question has no intention to change.

But since we are human, we will inevitably mess things up with those we love, sometime or the other. The sad truth about human bonds is that we will disappoint one another. We will say or do things that may be hurtful. We cannot always be sweet, kind and supportive. As the novelty of newness fades away, and we drop our masks, we often get a glimpse of the crazy. We become aware of the irritating eccentricities, of the ugliness in each other. Every conflict has the potential to bring out the worst in people, and the apologies that follow, though hardly helpful in soothing the pain, remind us to evaluate the relationship in question.

Above all, the fact that we have been at the giving as well as the receiving ends of an apology reminds us that we have flaws, and that we have the ability to realise our follies – two things that make us very much human. When I realise that I too have wronged people in the past, it makes it easier for me to forgive someone who has done the same to me. An apology, to me, is a plea for compassion for myself, and the other person, which makes it just a little bit easier to find peace in an imperfect world.

 

 

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