I was speaking with a client who recently went through a divorce after a long marriage. Her friends have been telling her that she should be celebrating. She finds herself saddened by the loss. She knows that she needs to let go so that she can move on and create a new future for herself, but it’s hard.
While listening to her, I had to put my “motivator” into check and practice compassionate listening. I took a deep breath, and tried to be fully present for her over the telephone. I wanted to meet her where she was at that moment.
She told me that she had read a helpful article in the Huffington Post. The author, who had also gone through a recent divorce, expressed the healing power of receiving a sincere apology from one’s ex-partner. Not the kind of “I was wrong – you were right” kind of apology, but one from the heart, “I’m sorry that we had to go through this. I hope you are okay. I wish you nothing but happiness in the future,” kind of acknowledgement.
The author of the article, Betsy Ross, draws a clear distinction between sincere apologies intended to heal, and insincere apologies designed to manipulate and influence settlements. Here’s a brief outtake from her article in Huffington Post –The Power of Apology in Divorce
“I would like to propose a call for increased (genuine) apologies for divorcing spouses. There can be no harm as far as I can see, in heartfelt acknowledgement and responsibility taking with regard to the pain and disappointment brought about by a failed marriage. An “I am sorry for my contributions to the ending of our marriage and I can see how painful this is for you and for our children” can help to open up dialogue and deliberations that might otherwise stall in the face of so much unacknowledged hurt, anger, and sadness. During and after a divorce, a genuine apology can be a healthy step forward towards healing for everyone involved.”
Sometimes losing your job feels like a divorce
I told my client how I was still waiting for an apology from an old boss who betrayed me some twenty years ago. (who carries grudges?) The result of the betrayal cost me my job and deeply impacted my personal circumstances. For years, I was waiting for him to apologize and to acknowledge how he wrongfully treated me.
We reconnected about five years later, after we were both settled into new jobs. We found a neutral space where we could communicate and talk about the events of the past. The apology that I was seeking never came. I don’t think he was capable of giving one. And I had let go of my need for vindication. Eventually, I apologized to myself and that was that.
Surrogate apology to the rescue
The next thing I know, my wonderful, creative client (the one who went through the divorce) sends me an email with this message in it:
“I make an apology on his behalf that he regrets treating you so poorly and did so out of fear, envy and something lacking in his spirit that needs to be fixed. He recognizes you are a wonderful person and he needs to shine a light on his own image to figure out why he is not.”
What I LOVE about this idea, is that if you really need an apology and can’t get it from the right party, get it from a surrogate. Find a way to fulfill your emotional needs so that you can move on. There’s nothing fun or glamorous about getting stuck in the past. It is not your goal to remain bitter and torn based on some painful event in your past. Deep down, you know you need to, and want to, move on. Forgiveness is part of how you can get unstuck.
Ironically, on the day that my client’s divorce became official, my “I Can Do It” daily calendar from HayHouse.com showed this quote.
Release is one of the many benefits that you receive when you learn to forgive.
Forgiveness will help you feel a deeper sense of freedom and joy in your life. It is a state of enlightenment that can take years to master, but only takes moments to exercise.
Forgiveness is also a powerful force. It can heal nations and neighbors, spouses and colleagues, parents and children…you name it.
The forgiveness process benefits from apologies which are helpful external aids, but they are no substitute for the internal work that is forgiveness. That can only come from within us.