Recently, a friendship ended.
I wished I could say it was a mutual parting where we both wished each other well. Instead, a simple misunderstanding evolved into an ugly confrontation where I had to endure the way she hurled abuse and disparaging comments at me like, “No one else is going to empower you like I do. You’re like a blip to me. I’ve given you every opportunity in the world, and now you have the audacity to leave me?!”
If I hadn’t been on the receiving end, I would have found her sense of entitlement, privilege, and warped sense of “possession” over me, laughable. Instead, I felt numb at how a once cherished friend could do a complete 180 and transform into someone so cruel, vindictive, and spiteful.
Although I mourn the end of our friendship, it’s the demeaning and poisonous words she threw at me that still rattle me to my core. I’d go about my day feeling fine, only to have my thoughts and emotions hijacked by a flashback to her demeaning comments. I’d drift peacefully to sleep, only to wake up the next morning with a heavy heart and a burning desire to roll up my sleeves and give her a piece of my mind.
When we officially parted ways, I apologised and owned up to the part I’d played in our friendship dissolving. I sat back, waiting for her to say sorry for the way she spoke to me and to apologise for using me as a dumping ground for her insecurities.
Instead, I was met with a resounding silence.
I don’t think we’ll ever get through life without collecting our share of scrapes and bruises along the way. Hurt people, hurt people. We’re all flawed human beings trying to live life with the best of intentions, but sometimes those intentions clash violently with others. I’m also a big believer that pain has to happen because it teaches us who we want to become. It highlights what our values really are and how we want to be treated. Pain, harnessed correctly, pushes us to become better, compassionate, people.
But I also know it can be hard to heal without an apology.
People tell me all the time that forgiveness is necessary for us to release the hold on our burdens. Forgiveness is preached from the pulpits of churches and from a therapist’s couch. We all know it’s for our own benefit. But I know it’s infinitely harder to forgive when we haven’t heard the words, “I’m sorry.”
Apologies are powerful because it’s an acknowledgment that someone else’s actions, whether intentional or not, have hurt us. But, more often than not, we have to accept we’ll never ever get an apology from those who wounded us. People can leave our lives before they’re held accountable for their actions. Others may be blinded by their pride or ego. “I’m sorry” isn’t a phrase that’s easily uttered.
I know so many of us are still lugging around the wounds and burdens from people that have hurt us beyond measure. We’re nursing wounds from the first time a boy rejected us. We’re deeply pained from a parent’s neglect and scarred by a close friend who hurt us beyond repair. Although it may have been months or years since the first wound was inflicted, our poorly bandaged cuts are still bleeding over the blessings of today.
You may never hear the words “I’m sorry” from the person that hurt you. But maybe hearing it from me is the push you need to start your healing process.
I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has ever made you feel overlooked and undervalued.
To be seen and known are basic human desires, so it hurts when people look straight past us. They may make us feel like we’re not worthy of a promotion, love, or respect.
But someone’s inability to see how valuable you are isn’t a reflection on you, it’s a reflection on them. Your value isn’t found in the hands of others. It isn’t measured based on the number of people who reject you or the amount on your paycheque.
I want you to know that someone sees you and the unique way you add value to this world. Someone admires all the ways you’re trying your best to show up and keep going.
I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has made you feel like you need to become someone else to be accepted.
In a world that worships celebrities and the “hustle” mentality, it can look like the only way to gain respect or attention is to become somebody who stands on platforms and wins accolades.
Yet there are people who have won all the awards who still feel vacantly empty inside. There are people who are hell-bent on chasing applause at the cost of their integrity.
I want you to know that you’re already significant as you are. You don’t have to “become important” to gain the right person’s approval. You don’t have to cut pieces of yourself off to be chosen by someone. You’re already dripping with so much gold and value, it’s insane.
I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has ever made you feel small.
Some people won’t be able to handle every vibrant, charismatic, larger-than-life encounter that you bring to this world. Some people resent seeing others grow and evolve because they’re scared of being left behind. But that doesn’t mean you have to reduce yourself to fit their expectations.
The actor, Jim Caviezel, once said, “We are not called to fit in but made to stand out.” That’s now the encouragement I give to anyone who feels like the odd one out.
I want you to know you were not created to fit into someone else’s mould. You were made to break barriers and exceed expectations. You are allowed to use your voice and take up space in this world. A single smile or comment from you is enough to brighten someone’s whole day.
I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has made you feel like you’re too broken to be fixed.
We are forever a work in progress, but that is something to be celebrated — not condemned. Spoiler alert: you’re never too broken beyond repair.
I want you to know that it may take extra time and extra tools from the shed, but being fully healed from your pain is something that can happen for you. Someone out there loves all the scars and bruises that make you the resilient person you are today.
I’m sorry on behalf of anyone who has ever uttered words about you that are untrue and a false reflection of who you really are.
People will harbour all sorts of opinions about you. They’ll conjure up false narratives in their head to justify their harmful actions towards you, or they’ll put you down to lift themselves up.
I want you to know that someone’s opinion of you has everything to do with them, not with you. Don’t let them stop you from pursuing the things you’re passionate about or making choices that will push you closer to your goal. Don’t let someone who barely knows anything about you, shape your perception of yourself.
I could keep going for hours and it still wouldn’t begin to scrape the surface of all the hurt for which we’re seeking an apology. It’s ok if you only felt a temporary wave of relief before anger overwhelmed you again. Like all journeys, the road to forgiveness is made up of baby steps and the occasional stop for directions. You may need to repeat these apologies to yourself a few more times or continue to ask for help. But the fact you’re here and you’re trying is a testament to the courage that’s running through your veins.
Above all, keep showing up in your life, keep pressing forward, and keep being yourself irrespective of who does or doesn’t acknowledge their wrongdoing towards you.
I know I’ll never get an apology from my “friend.” But I’m learning to move on and forgive her even without it — for my benefit, not hers.
Know this, dear reader, we can never seek to control the actions of others, but we can control how we let go of the pain and how we treat other people.