Friday, August 23, 2013

When Do You "Owe" Someone An Apology?

I am a mother.  Therefore, believe me when I say, I have said "You owe your sister/brother/me and apology" a time or 7. Having not been raised by wolves, I have also had this said to me.  This last week I was presented with the question in a new way.  I watched as someone gave an apology upon request and it stuck in my craw like movie popcorn.  From that moment I have had this question spinning around in my little brain like a tornado;  "When do you "owe" someone an apology?"  Here is what I came up with (With a little help from my kids... who were sat down and forced to answer this in their own words. It might have felt a little like an interrogation to some, but they are so used to me, it didn't even phase them).

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.

3 comments:

Wendi B. - What Wendi Wants and Wendi's Book Corner said...

I like the thought you put into this Amy - I talked with our boys the other day about saying "sorry", but our conversation was a bit different as they are 3 and 6... we were working on some of the basics, but I love what you have written and I plan to borrow some of it. :)

I especially like the way you point out that an apology is a gift - because it is, and I've never looked at it that way.

JustOneLove said...

I have always been quick to say "I'm sorry" and lately, I've been dealing with something where someone mis-interpreted my intentions behind something simple I said. I told them I can't apologize and admit to what they're accusing me of but I am sorry they took it as such. It's a standstill...it's a difference of opinion that s seriously breaking this relationship. Anyway, reading your blog was good. I appreciate your insight especially because we are alike only you say what I'm thinking and can get away with it! ;) ~Cara Day

Girdie Fae Thomas said...

I especially like what you say about how "an apology is a gift" that must be given and received freely. As to when an apology is "owed"...
I admit I feel a little torn here. Since I'm not a parent, I am maybe under-qualified to speak...but I'm feeling popcorn in my teeth over the whole debate. We're talking about shades of the Law, aren't we? We want to know when we are wrong and need to "pay" and when we are not wrong, and the other person is wrong. Black and white. Who owes whom an apology. But regardless of who is right and who is in the wrong, there has always been a break in relationship. So which is more important, the apology or the relationship? Who is supposed to pursue whom upon such a break? Who gets to stand on their dignity, knowing they are owed an apology? I can't preach, because truly I do NOT have this down...but if God made the first move toward me, me in the depths of the worst "I OWE AN APOLOGY" in the universe, then how can I be excused for not making a move toward those who owe me one? Which, I know, absolutely feels like death in real life. Especially when someone wantonly, recklessly hurts me (I am not good at this). But in terms of teaching...I wonder, for such a hard, hard thing to grasp, let alone do...how young is too young to begin this kind of teaching? When do you introduce the Death of Law?