Ladies and gentlemen, I begin with a universal truth: apologizing is tough.
For so many of us, apologizing seems to feel like an admission of guilt, an experience which is easy for exactly no one. But as difficult as it is to deal with the twinge of vulnerability that usually accompanies "I'm sorry," it is something that everyone, in my opinion, needs to do a little more of. In some of our cases, a lot more of.
For the sake of you and those who surround you, I hope that you don't make a habit of doing things which require an apology just for kicks and giggles. When it is necessary that you apologize, hopefully, it is because you have truly made a mistake and deserve to apologize. It is in the midst of this type of black and white or right and wrong situation in which apologizing is as easy as it will ever be. The most difficult situation is when you didn't actually mean to do anything wrong or hurtful. When you don't act on cruel intentions, we can tend to turn the blame around from us to the person asking for an apology. Who wants to admit guilt for something they never meant to do?
But what we all need to realize is that it is in these situations where apologies are the most necessary. Those times that we hurt others because of a miscommunication, lack of judgment, or a simple misunderstanding can be the times the person you hurt needs validation the most.
You wouldn't accidentally step on someone's toe without blurting out an "I'm so sorry!" There was no malicious intent, but the resulting flinch or yelp would show you that, on purpose or not, you have caused someone else pain. However, for some reason that is increasingly unclear to me, if someone shares that we said something out of ignorance or a communication malfunction that offended them or hurt them, we tend to feel above apologies. Suddenly, the excuse of "I didn't mean to" seems like a sufficient response to, "You have hurt me," and nothing more is necessary. We are vindicated and all is well with the world again.
But again, we return to the issue of healing the wound you have caused someone else. More important than an apology is the validation that accompanies it. Sometimes apologizing means more than admitting guilt. There are times when a true apology is an act of giving back to someone you took something from; sometimes it means accepting your role in the pain and understanding you can affect someone else with your words and actions.
The next time an occasion arises when an apology is necessary, don't ask yourself, "Did I do anything wrong?" Rather try asking yourself, "Does this person mean more to me than my pride?"