No One Owes You An Apology

I was napping on the sofa the other night and, when I woke up, my husband was watching a Netflix series called Explained.  It’s a fun show if you’ve never seen it.  They pick a topic and, during each episode, they explore it in depth.  The topic of the show that was starting as I woke up was apologizing.  It got me thinking about the process of both apologizing and expecting an apology.

One of the first things that they mentioned in the show was that the concept of apologizing wasn’t even mentioned in the literature prior to the 1500s.  In fact, the first documented mention of an apology was in a work by Sir Thomas More in 1533. 

When we look around today, it’s hard to imagine that type of  “non-apologizing” culture. In our current world someone is always apologizing.  The show went on the explain the art and science of the apology and they had all kinds of tips on how to do it better.

All of this got me thinking about why we have become so obsessed with the apology.  Why do we expect people to apologize?

The truth is that we think that it’s the act of the other person apologizing that makes us feel better.  We see something someone else has done as causing us emotional suffering, but what we see when we look at the Thought Model is that someone else’s words or actions are always a Circumstance.  That means that those words and actions are neutral.

That means that there is nothing another person can do or say that can make you feel any type of emotional reaction without your permission.

Other people don’t make you feel bad.

It also means that there is nothing another person can do or say to convince you that they are truly sorry.  They either are or they’re not. You either believe they are or you don’t. 

The show spent a great deal of time focusing on the power of apologizing, but I would argue that there’s actually very little power in an apology.

If you’re expecting an apology, you’re handing over your emotional wellbeing to a person you believe has wronged you.  You’re basically saying that you will continue to feel the negative emotion you believe this other person has inflicted upon you until they act.  You’ve made yourself an emotional hostage to probably the last person you’d pick if I asked you who you would like to have control over your emotions. 

This is emotional childhood.

When we truly embrace the power of the Thought Model, however, we can move into emotional adulthood.  We can take responsibility for the fact that it is not the actions of the other person that caused our initial negative feelings, but rather our thoughts about those actions.  We can also take responsibility for making ourselves feel better.

You see, the power here isn’t in the apology. The power is in the forgiveness.  I can forgive anyone for anything anytime I wish.  Other people don’t have to do a thing in order for me to take this action.  That means I’m not waiting on anyone else to act so that I feel better.

They don’t feel the relief of that forgiveness, but I do.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  Putting all this focus on the apology takes our power away.  No one owes you an apology because you have the power to feel better without one.  When you embrace this power, you can finally release the weight of relying on the actions of others to feel better.

If you’d like to know more about this, please take a moment to sign up for my free course, How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift, and keep an eye out for exciting opportunities to work together soon.