Friday, August 23, 2013
When Do You "Owe" Someone An Apology?
You don't. An apology is a process regulated by moral compass and belief systems. The only way to "owe" someone anything really, is to feel in your heart and mind that you have acted immorally or against your personal belief system if you do not give it to them (credit to my 17yr. old on that one).
Now if we assume that you have a strong moral compass and belief system (which does improve ones chances of not being in prison so I highly recommend it), then we can approach the question again. I believe that you can indeed "owe" someone an apology. I think that when you have upset, hurt, or emotionally wounded them by your poor behavior or attitude, that you do indeed, "owe" them one. As my 11yr old put it, "When you hurt someone because you are hurting, not because of anything they did". There are times when people (especially young children) do not want to apologize and may not even mean it when they do, but we hold them accountable because they are still learning to respect others. Most apologies (in my opinion) come from words we say or actions caused because we are tired, angry, frustrated and or just grumpy. They are out of character for us and so, we say we are sorry for not treating people the way we have promised to treat them.
When do you NOT "owe" someone an apology? This is where I think I got some proverbial popcorn stuck in my teeth. When we say something that upsets, hurts or offends their self image or ego because your opinion is different then theirs and they feel you being right makes them look... wrong. Perhaps you hit a soft spot they're not ready to face yet. When you said what you meant and meant what you said to be heard not swept under the carpet. There is a difference between saying something catty to hurt someone purposefully and saying something honest that stings because there is truth in it, and well... sometimes the truth hurts.
It all really comes down to this; Perhaps you can "owe" someone an apology, but an apology itself must be given. It's a gift. Like with all other gifts, it means very little unless it is given and accepted freely. If you have to press someone to "give" an apology by telling them you think it's "owed", be very sure that it is really about helping them stay in their character and uphold the standard they want to have for how they treat others (everyone needs a little constructive criticism from time to time folks) and NOT smoothing ruffled feathers because someone didn't agree with someone with more pride, power or, heaven forbid, both.