Over the last several weeks, I’ve become aware that many people in my life have recently apologized to me. All of the apologies have come from different people and were for different reasons: a friend said she was sorry for saying something hurtful, my boyfriend asked that I forgive his proclivity for lecturing on certain topics, a coworker apologized for losing his temper, and a relative was sorry for ruining my evening. And then there was the young guy at the Dunkin Donuts drive-through window who said to me, “I’m sorry for making you wait.” Ironically, it was his apology that made me cry.
Apologies are a tricky thing. First of all, when five apologies come your way in such quick succession, it makes you realize that there might be something about you that’s allowing the people in your life to treat you disrespectfully (no offense to the DD guy). Secondly, once we have that awareness, we realize that apologies are reminders of the boundaries that we may have to reinforce in our lives.
As the recipient of the “I’m sorry,” we typically have one of two reactions depending upon how the apology is delivered: “That’s okay” or “Yeah right.” But what about silence as a third reaction?
It was silence that I gave the young guy at Dunkin Donuts, mainly because I was stunned that he would apologize for something that wasn’t his fault…and even more stunned that the “I’m sorry” he gave me that Tuesday morning served as the “I’m sorry” for all of the others I’d received in the past few weeks.
As I took my first sip of coffee, I realized: an apology is not a golden ticket that is meant to absolve a person of their foolish behavior or disrespect. The recipient of the apology, however–and I can think of a few people in my life who’ve received many over the past several decades–are the golden ones. They are strong and brave and beautiful…because they forgive.