Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Nineteenth Day of Elul 5780
The most common stumbling blocks for apologizing are the thoughts we make up about the person to whom we should apologize. We get hung up on thoughts like, “Why should I change if the other person won’t change?” or “Why should I apologize to that person if she or he won’t apologize to me first?” For many of us, this can be a very powerful distraction from t’shuvah.
There are some important things to remember about this. The first is that t’shuvah is a process toward greater joy and fulfillment in life that is available to everyone, but it is something you can only do for yourself. You cannot do t’shuvah for someone else. Release your resentment, anger or fear of that other person in order to focus on your own t’shuvah.
The second thing to notice is that you need to do t’shuvah even if the person you hurt has also hurt you (except for cases where there has been abuse.) You may have a difficult relationship with another person in which you feel you are only ten percent to blame and the other person owns the other ninety percent. You may believe, therefore, that the other person needs to apologize first. This is a trap. It will keep you from healing yourself. Take the first step by apologizing and see how it feels.
Third, we sometimes hold back from making an apology because we fear the other person will vent anger at us. This is a possibility. When people feel hurt, they often are not ready to accept an apology until they release their anger. When this happens, you do not have to do anything more than to listen compassionately. You can repeat the apology, but you do not have to argue. You do not have to say things you do not believe. You do not have to agree. You just have to listen.
Practice for this day:
Think of a relationship in which you feel the need for repair, but you feel unable to apologize. What is the story you tell yourself about your inability? Is it embarrassment or shame? Is it fear that your apology won’t be accepted, that it will spark anger, or that it will be misunderstood? Is it that you don’t expect the other person to take responsibility for their own wrongdoing?
Remember that the goal of t’shuvah is to release yourself from your own feelings of guilt and shame in order to become a happier and more fulfilled person. With that in mind, imagine a conversation with this other person that will allow you to express your true feelings about your own behavior in a way that the other person will be able to hear and accept. Write some notes about what you hope to say.
If you feel ready, now is the time to make your apologies.