Are Apologies Selfish?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the thoughts occupying my mind during the COVID-19 pandemic certainly have not been about “creating my 10 year plan to be a self starter” or about “the 10 resolutions I’m pleading to take to live a healthier lifestyle” or honestly, even how I can learn to knit to build a new skill (that I can then open an Etsy shop post-pandemic and try my hand at that self-start up) ; instead, the thoughts occupying my mind have been more of the, “I can’t believe I said that”, “I am ashamed that I acted that way”, “how did I ever think that was a moral choice?”–the kind of thoughts that you want to shove deep, deep down into the recesses of your brian and forget they even happened at all. In a normal year, I think I’m just so busy that I can gloss over these thoughts, but now since my mind has absolutely no busyness to occupy it, all those very uncomfortable thoughts are now beginning to surface….

In these (hours of rumination, because let’s face it, there is nothing else to do), I find myself justifying (what my memories of) the action. I mean, I should not have done what I did, but she was also really bitchy back to me. I should not have spread that rumor, but wait, was it even me that spread it? The way I wrote about the situation on my blog was totally mean, but the person probably never even read it…and I try to tell myself that I, of course, have totally grown as a person since I committed that very shameful action, so it is OK because I’d never make the same choice. And then, because the memory keeps surfacing, I wonder if I should just apologize to the person–you know, walk in the face of shame (or whatever Tony Robbins says) and rid myself of the guilt so that those thoughts can finally disappear and go away.

…but, then again, maybe I did apologize initially, so maybe it doesn’t even matter anymore? 

As the urge to apologize continued to surface, I began to wonder if actually following through with the apology would be inherently selfish. Before we move on, I’d like to qualify that each of these scenarios involve an acquaintance, a casual co-worker, a fast friend–someone whose presence in my life may have just been momentarily and seasonal–perhaps a ‘rubber band’ type relationship that is easy for me to cut ties with and move on from; in all cases, if the situation occurred with a significant other, a family member, a notable role model, etc.–a ‘glass ball’ relationship in which a fracture–an occurrence without an apology–which would deeply offend the relationship–absolutely the apology would be necessary in order to resolve conflict and mend feelings. But, in the case of the less consequential relationship, because the ultimate ‘end goal’ here is to rid myself of these shameful feelings and uncomfortable memories; the end goal would not be to reconnect and mend a broken bestfriend-ship, or to recognize the challenge I put on someone else to make THEM feel lighter. No, the end goal would simply be selfish–rid myself of the troublesome thoughts that keep creeping up.  

Because, in each of these apologies, what I would probably end up saying was, “I recognize my actions were wrong, but at the time, my boyfriend was dumping me, my car was falling apart, and my favorite pair of shoes were just eaten by my room mate’s dog”. Or, I would have said, “I’m sorry that I was a bitch and ruined your party, but I figured you would say something if you didn’t like the flamingo theme I picked and you didn’t so I invited all of my friends anyways”. Or, I would have said, “I’m sorry that you felt I wrote about you on my blog. I mean, I did write about you, but I tried to hide it so that you didn’t know it was about you”. In all of these apologies, I’m justifying my actions–because I don’t want them to see me as a bad person, but I also don’t want to see myself as a bad person either….

So in the end, the only apology I would definitely be inherently selfish–selfish, because I want rid myself of the bad thoughts, selfish because I don’t want to see myself as a bad person, and selfish, because the apology has nothing to do with the person I’m apologizing to, and everything to do with me. 

In that vein, I think this is why Tony Robbins tells you to write your apologies on a piece of paper, walk across the hot coals, and throw them in the fire. Maybe that will be my next step…

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