This past Easter, I wrote about whether we really need to forgive and the importance of ultimately forgiving yourself instead of busting a gut trying to speed up your grieving and healing so that you can forgive someone else. What I find fascinating about life but in particular reading or hearing about situations where people have encountered someone who at best took advantage and at their worst, abused them, is how ‘sorry’ is supposed to be a word that expresses regret and an apology, but can also be a way of pressing the Reset Button.

Much like giving, ‘sorry’ isn’t something that you say with expectations of what the other person should think, feel, or do as a result. I don’t say sorry unless I mean it. I also, however, don’t take it as my right to assume that it should be “Shazam! Everything is forgotten!” For minor things, it can be relatively easy to snap back to ‘normal’. Otherwise, it takes more than the few seconds it takes to utter an apology to overcome these situations.

Being genuinely sorry is actually remembering what the hell you did and having enough genuine regret to sincerely endeavour not to repeat the very thing you know has caused distress or even great hurt.

Some people pay lip service to apologies and just trot them out. This is in much the same way that they might be loose with declarations of feelings that they can’t back up with actions. Much like love, sorry is an action feeling. It’s not just something you say; it has to be reflected in your actions. I know you’re sorry when we return to a mutually respectful and fulfilling relationship. I have to seriously question, though, how feckin sorry you are if you apologise and in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, you’re busting up my boundaries again.

When someone’s on your back like Zorro to apologise to you or for you to accept the apology, they don’t actually mean they’re sorry.

What they really mean is:

Look, can you hurry the eff up and accept my apology so I can stop feeling bad about it? You perceiving me as wronging/hurting/abusing/whatever you is terribly inconvenient and my ego doesn’t like the pinch of reality. So if you don’t mind, get a shuffle on, accept my apology, and let’s move on so I can slam my palm down on the Reset Button.”

You see, much like the issue of being friends after a breakup, when certain types of people badger you to be ‘friends’ and badger you to accept their apology, it’s because they’re not confident enough in their integrity to believe they can ‘get’ your friendship or your forgiveness without manipulating you to some degree.

If you treat someone well in a relationship, odds are that even when you break up, once hearts are mended and you’re both in neutral territory, there’s a possibility for friendship. You don’t assume that it’s your God-given right. And you certainly shouldn’t feel entitled to push for a pseudo friendship so you can have a foot in the door for an ego stroke, shag, or a shoulder to lean on.

And it’s the same with the person that tries to badger, railroad, and guilt you into accepting their so-called apology. It’s like “Here’s my apology packaged up in a load of guilt and shame I’m putting on you”. And the worst thing is that if you have low self-esteem and tend to look for validation, this is the type of thing that does a number on you. You get distracted from the actual issue and the focus becomes on making them feel better about the fact that you’re not ‘over’ whatever the problem was.

“Oh, I’m sorry that I’m still hurt and that I’m hurting your feelings! There, there now. Let me make it all better for you and invalidate my feelings so I can validate your gigantasaurus ego. Would you like some sex with some milk and sugar while you’re at it?”

What the what now?

If you’re pissed off, furious, hurt or whatever you’re feeling, those are your feelings and you have a right to them.

Yeah, they’re not convenient for the other person. Much like when celebrities take out super injunctions to hide their cheating though, if your apology hunter is that concerned about feeling the inconvenience, it might help if they didn’t hurt you in the first place.

It’s not about bearing grudges. Some things can’t be brushed off with an apology. Stone cold facts! Many Cheaters, for example, love saying they’re ‘sorry’ but they actually regret being caught. Or they regret that their image has been crushed or are eager for the deception to be forgotten about.

And this is why I stress the importance of living and dating with your self-esteem and having healthy boundaries where you recognise your discomfort and validate your feelings and judgement.

When you know the line, they know the line. As a result, you won’t allow someone to not only press the Reset Button but to have free reign to pull the same thing all over again.

Sometimes it takes a while to process an experience and to work out what happened and where you go from ‘here’. That’s why you can’t just cast aside your feelings for the convenience of someone else’s ego.

Often the very people who do pseudo apologies don’t genuinely empathise with you and recognise not only how you may be feeling in your position but what they did to impact you.

If they don’t understand (or don’t want to) how they came to cause you pain, there’s nothing to stop them from repeating the same actions. It makes it a hollow apology. If they genuinely understood what had happened, they’d know why you’re still struggling.

You also have to be careful. Someone can apologise whenever the hell they like, but they can’t erase your memory and your feelings. However, they may still assume if you’re forced into ‘accepting’ their apology that the slate is wiped clean and it’s like it didn’t happen. It did happen though.

Sorry takes many forms. For many of you struggling in barely-there relationships, you’ll know they’re truly sorry and they ‘get it’ when they finally leave you alone. We want to believe that people have changed or at the very least feel deep regret when they say they’re sorry. Maybe, though, one of the biggest things to learn is that, much like they can’t expect you to soothe their ego, you can’t assume that sorry is a precursor to a changed person.

Sorry doesn’t mean “I’ve changed”. At it’s best it means “I regret what I did”, and that’s fine. However, if what they’re apologising for amounts to shady, boundary-busting, code amber and red behaviour, it’s best to leave them in your past. This way, ou don’t have more hurt to pile on further down the line.

Your thoughts?

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.

Check out my ebooks the No Contact Rule and Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl, and more, in my bookshop.

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Sometimes 'Sorry' means 'Hurry the hell up & accept my apology so I can stop feeling bad about it' - Sorry seems to be the easy word - Natalie Lue - Baggage Reclaim
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