Gregorio BillikopfFarm employers and others often ask me for help as a mediator. Most of us who studied agriculture never realized that we would end up spending so much time dealing with people rather than plants and animals. Today I want to share a few thoughts about apologies.
We must first recognize our error before we can make things right. While never easy, it is even harder when such recognition requires a public acknowledgement—an apology—to those we have injured.
It is not surprising that most of the apologies we hear are quasi-apologies at best, if not outright justifications and blame misdirected at the injured parties. We often hear such false expressions of regret such as “If you’re hurt, I’m sorry!” “I’m sorry, already!” And, “I am sorry, but ...”
A true apology requires a great deal of humility and includes a sincere expression of regret, changed behavior and, when possible, restitution.
Some people attempt to make things right by changing behavior without openly recognizing mistakes. This partial effort at making things right is seldom enough.
Even more difficult than public recognition of our mistake, is a willingness to hear, directly from the injured party, precisely how much pain we have caused. It is natural to wish we could shield ourselves from the discomfort of vicariously re-living these moments—and instead try and compensate in other ways.
Nor can we decide that it is now time to be fully forgiven. This impatience again shows our lack of humility. Furthermore, we are making it harder for the person we have injured to heal—and ironically, extend the period of resentment they may have toward us.
The topic of forgiveness is just as complex. A person who cannot forgive and holds on to his pain suffers much more than the offending party. When we have forgiven we do not continually remind others of the offense. Some comments and deeds are so hurtful, however, that substantial time may have to transpire before we can be free of the associated pain.
University of California
Conflict Management & Interpersonal Mediation: