In a previous life, I was a bit . . . shall we say, cold. I would distance myself from a friend I’d known for years because of one comment, or if they showed up late to one of our meetings. I was obsessively looking for fault, holding them up to impossible standards. When they got to be too much to handle, I’d ghost them. Or worse, I’d have a conversation with them about it, where I outlined their flaws. Don’t I sound like a joy? But something weird happened, life. Brought low by motherhood and a family illness taught me something.
Cut to several years later. When looking back at the wake of ruined relationships I left behind me, I felt great remorse. So I did something about it, and you can as well. Making past wrongs right will change your life, forever. Once you’ve felt this kind of healing, no matter the outcome, your love and compassion grow stronger. You feel light on your feet, a sense of ease. Ready to start? Here’s how.
1. Account for those you harmed.
This part is no fun, but it’s necessary to moving forward. Look back and take account of those who you have treated poorly. You can use arbitrary parameters, but I just went with my instinct. I would have recurring dreams of friends I’d wronged, and usually, those were enough impetus to make the list. I found these were people I truly missed. If you want to go allll the way back to grade school, be my guest. It’s all what moves you. Discuss with a friend or your partner, or journal about it. Say a prayer, do a conjuring dance, whatever it takes to connect with the spirit and reveal to you those you’ve harmed.
2. Decide when/how to reach out
Sometimes God pushes you. One such person I found myself apologizing to I ran into quite by accident. Some of the other apologies have been in person, or via email/text. Each situation deserves some meditation. Think carefully about how you’ve wronged the person, and what their reaction might be to your apology. The idea is you present your apology to them with the least amount of harm possible. You’ve already contributed enough, don’t pile on. You’ll find not every situation results in physical action. There are some harmful relationships I chose to leave completely alone, and while I’m not proud of my contribution to it, to reach out felt like going backward. Trust the spirit to guide you. Not every situation needs a response, use prayer to guide you.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
Research what a good apology looks like, or think of a time someone apologized to you that really resonated. This should be about what you did to them, so focus on that. Take full responsibility for your actions, don’t try to explain them away. Read and re-read the email, text, and practice anything in person with an objective friend. Treat the outreach with the respect it deserves. The other party should feel your careful and considerate approach. Don’t be hasty, and don’t think of them as another box to check. Even if your list is lengthy (mine was/is) don’t let that discourage you. This practice is one you will utilize for years to come. Yes, years. Own up to your actions, take control. Forgive and forget.
4. Forgive (yourself) and forget.
If you are sending an apology in writing, the hardest part is the waiting. Will the person respond? Have they accepted your apology, or will you forever be on their “do not call” list? Sometimes, it’s not for you to know. In sending your apology off to them, you heal a part of yourself. God has already forgiven you, now it’s time to forgive yourself. Take heart that you did everything in your power to make it right. The next step takes the most maturity, you continue to live your life, honoring their decision either way.
Why will this change your life forever? I’ll tell you. Every time I’ve healed a friendship, new growth came into my life. New connections, new stories, new journeys. You never know how your path will connect unless you try and bring to life what seemed hopelessly broken. Happy apologizing!