The other night, I was having a conversation with my best friend about all the little ripples of drama that people create through social media. We talked about how we both felt that we had grown in the past year because we realized we had let go of a lot of the anger and reactive tendencies that we had felt when we were younger. We acknowledged that people are always going to be bratty on social media and that often times people like to create their own dramatic narratives where they are the struggling lead character who can do no wrong. That means sometimes you wind up being the bad guy in someone else narrative – and sometimes you get caught up and truly play the part. We talked about how part of living a more balanced life means not engaging in these narratives.
My best friend and I continued to chat about how part of being a grown up is acknowledging that people aren’t just heroes or villains – that it’s much more complex than that. Sometimes we react, sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we are mean to people. Sometimes we are bullied, sometimes we are victimized and sometimes we get taken advantage of.
A lot of the times there are feelings of underlying guilt that keep us from truly getting over situations. It causes us to focus on the people who have wronged us and often times we forget that we too may have wronged them along the way. It builds into something more dramatic, something theatrical – and in the grand scheme of things it becomes more and more impossible to get over.
I explained to my friend that a few weeks ago, I reached out and offered an apology to someone who had hurt me – because I knew I had hurt them equally as much. I offered this apology because I wasn’t getting over the dissolution of our friendship. While I had been hurt when our friendship fell apart, I was also dealing with the underlying guilt of how the situation had played out afterwards. I apologized because I realized that as much as I talk about self care and being kind, if I didn’t truly accept my previous negative behavior and apologize for it – what was I really doing? After I apologized, the other party apologized for their actions too and we went on our separate ways. We had been friends, we had been enemies, but now it seemed we could be two grownups living in the same city without the dynamic of bad guys vs. victims.
My best friend was proud of me for apologizing, for making amends and for continuing my process of self care and positive mental health by tackling a situation that I had been avoiding. I didn’t feel the guilt anymore of my actions, because after feeling bad about my behavior for the past two years, I had genuinely offered my apology to the person I had hurt and in return, they had genuinely apologized for their role too. In my situation, it offered me the healing that I needed and I was able to end the conversation feeling like a weight had been lifted.
We as humans make mistakes. We say nasty things, we spread false rumors, we fixate on people we don’t even know. So many times, these actions come from feeling hurt or being immature. So many times the fall out is that we feel underlying guilt, which can manifest itself in even more negative behavior or sadness. But instead of letting those mistakes bury us in negativity, maybe we should think about offering more genuine apologies. It isn’t just beneficial to those who we have hurt, but to us as individuals.
A genuine apology shows growth. It shows change. It shows an acceptance of the past but a hope for the future. It’s hard, it takes time to be ready to take that scary step of reaching out to someone who you hurt, but seriously – the payoff is so worth it.