I met a young man this year who went through a time of huge change. In fact, his entire family went through this big life change. Some familiar faces and his old rhythm of life changed. New people came into his life with other ways of doing things. The new events came out of nowhere for him, and naturally he was struggling with the emotions coming up. Things being different triggered in him a feeling we all deep down have, the little nagging voice which says, “I do not feel good enough”.
Nobody “makes us feel” a certain way, but other people, of course, trigger our deepest doubts and insecurities. Sometimes we overreact when we feel not enough. We want to blame others for making us feel “like a bad person”. We push them away instead of giving them a chance to share how they really feel and think about us. We get stuck in the idea of being a victim who has been hurt by another person. When the other person wants to apologize, we take it as a confirmation that we have been wronged instead of a sign of him or her caring enough to say sorry.
Where I come from, people have a hard time saying “I am sorry”. In the German mind-set, it is deeply ingrained that saying sorry means “I did something I shouldn’t have done. I wronged you in some way.” They ask, “Why should I apologize? I have done nothing bad.” This attitude seems less common in Canada but there still are people who see an apology as a confession of wrongdoing.
“I am sorry you feel this way” just means that we care enough to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and that we are acknowledging the feelings somebody has. “I am sorry” can also mean “I acknowledge that I was part of this experience you had and I am sorry we created something together which did not feel good for either one of us.” It is a sign that we are taking responsibility for our own words and actions independent of the right and wrong dynamic. Sometimes things aren’t right or wrong, they just are.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, we can meet in a field of communicating without judgements and of understanding each other’s feelings. We can all—no matter how old we are—make mistakes; we can all say “I am sorry you feel this way”; we can all take responsibility for co-creating our experiences with each other; we can all let go and give second chances. If we want to have second and third chances in life, we need to start by giving others that opportunity as well.
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