what about apologies and forgiveness?

Here's what I keep thinking about this whole series we've fallen into over the past few weeks:  

Make it stop!!!!

I hope, I pray, I think maybe we are coming to the end of it.  For now, anyway?  Maybe?

If you're sick of it all, I totally understand.  

If you don't want to think about this any more, you are excused with my blessing. Go out and play.

Some of you, though, are wondering about apologies and forgiveness, and what trust looks like when someone has been extremely hurtful in the past.

These are issues my clients deal with in therapy over and over and over, so I've had to churn them around in my head until I've come up with some ideas that make sense in the real world.  

My summary about apologies and forgiveness would go something like this.

Actions speak louder than words.

An apology is a good start.  But it is only a start.  We need to see what behavior follows.  We are hopeful that the person means what they say, but the only way we can tell is by how they behave.

Forgiveness is free.  Trust is earned.

I can forgive you all day long, but that's just about me, wanting to live free and clear.  I can make good, healthy choices, but I have no idea what you're going to do.  The restoration of my trust in you depends upon your trustworthy behavior over time.  Get crackin'.

Empathy is essential.

Many, many times I see an offender claim that he's stopped the troublesome behavior--and he may indeed have changed his habits.  However, he does not seem to be able to empathize with the victim's sadness, anger, or need for healing.  The offender offers his apology and demands that the victim "forgive and forget."

When I see that dynamic, I understand it as a manipulative attempt to keep the victim engaged in the system.  

Where there is no empathy for victims, where there is simply a demand to forgive, obey, and get over it--or worse yet, a long story about how things have been so terrible for the offender--I have no trust.

So.  Apologies and forgiveness.  It all depends on trustworthy behavior over time, and empathy.  You have to wait and see.  

I feel like the queen of bad news here lately.  Grieve.  Wait and see.  Recovery is a long, messy process.

Awesome sauce all over the place.  Sorry, guys.  It really, really sucks.

Here's what's in the archives.

This article is about the differences between forgiveness, trust, and healing.

This one is more about forgiveness is free, trust is earned.

Here I'm addressing that thing about "nobody's perfect," "we're all sinners."

Here's one about resisting evil, injustice, and oppression when they're attacking us.

And another one about saying no, just because no is enough already.

Brene Brown says that if forgiveness is easy, there's not enough blood on the floor.  So I wrote about that, and my experience with tropical  ulcers.  (Horrible photo alert on this one.  It makes a point you will never forget.)

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