Why Don’t They Just Apologize?


By Sister Renee  (8/03)

     It seems so simple.  I have often been told, often by people I know very well, that they know they were wrong, they regret what they did, they shouldn’t have said what they said, etc., and now they ‘don’t know what to do’ to get back in the good graces of the person they offended.

     When I ask them if they have apologized, they usually look at me as if I had lost my mind, completely stunned.  The answer is always ‘No’; in fact, apologizing was the farthest thing from their minds.  I have always marvelled at this.  They are willing to admit that they did wrong to me, but not to the person they have hurt. (Some people are not willing to admit this to anyone!) 

     They will try all kinds of contrived tactics to see the person they have hurt, or to force the injured person to talk to them again. 

     They enlist other friends or relatives to talk to the victim for them- having no problem using their mouths to cause trouble, but not to make amends- they use others to smooth things over for them and ‘do their dirty work’, so they can avoid feeling uncomfortable and having to make the first move themselves.  Never having to suffer the natural consequences  of their behavior, they never learn to change.

     Some will send a birthday card to the person they have betrayed, as if nothing ever happened.  There will be no apology and no mention of the problem.  This is an attempt to manipulate the person they have hurt into calling them.

     I had four relatives who judged me,  betrayed me, and abandoned me when I began to set limits on my abusive parents.  They were my biological sister, one of my aunts (my birth father’s sister) and her two daughters ( thankfully only two out of many, many cousins).

     One of these cousins, to whom I had given nothing but support, loyalty, and unconditional love all of our lives, ‘sided with’ my parents ( I hadn’t asked her to take sides- I believe that is very juvenile and only someone who is insecure and coming from a very weak position would need the back-up of other people)  and cut me off, and even hurt my children by cutting them off as well.  It is an honour to cease from strife: But every fool will  be meddling…Proverbs 20:3 KJV.   Later, she ‘accidentally ran into me’ in the grocery store where I had shopped for years and she never did.  After three years of not speaking to me, she almost knocked me over hugging me.  We spent two hours having a nice conversation, during which she brought me up-to-date on her life, and asked about me and my family, just as if we were long-lost friends. 

     Although I gave her several opportunities to explain herself and apologize, she chose not to.  So even though she obviously regrets her actions, our relationship will not be resumed because she showed no capacity to understand how much she hurt me and my family, and gave me no reason not to believe that she wouldn’t do exactly the same thing all over again in the future if she ever disagrees with another of my decisions.  There is no sense in letting my children, or myself, become attached to her again.

     This same person ‘got lost’ and turned up in a very remote rural area 150 miles from home, in the local luncheonette of another relative she had betrayed, managing to ‘run into’ the other person’s family members while she was there.  The family members were shocked to see her, and were given several different explanations for this amazing ‘coincidence’, including ‘antique-hunting’, ‘making a wrong turn’ (it would have actually taken a number of wrong turns to end up there from where she supposedly was), and, perhaps most disturbing of all, ‘looking at property’ in the area.  With all the other areas to choose from- she wanted to buy property in this estranged relative’s neighborhood!

     My biological sister had moved 250 miles away 23 years earlier, and pretty much left her family behind without ever looking back.   She never attended a family wedding or funeral,  never helped with my birth-parents and their health or other issues, never hosted a holiday or birthday, and made little effort to keep in touch.   Most of the family hasn’t seen her since childhood and doesn’t even know her.  With few exceptions, she only came home once a year.  She would arrive about 5PM on Christmas Eve and leave first thing the morning after Christmas.

     One year, after she had cut off me and my family, we were having our own little celebration on Christmas Eve.  We went to bed and turned the lights out at 2AM.  Now my house, at the time, was situated on a corner, and my bedroom window was on the second floor, only about 20 feet from the street.  On the corner was a stop sign, and a big pine tree stood between the street and the front corner of my house.

     I like fresh air when I sleep and usually have my bedroom window cracked open a bit, even in the winter.  Well, not two minutes after turning out all the lights and climbing into bed, I heard a car pull up to the stop sign outside.  It didn’t pull away again right away, but stayed there with its engine idling.  I got out of bed and went to the window to take a look.  I could only see the very back of the car because most of it was blocked from view by the pine tree but it was the same type and color car as my birth-sister’s.  Then I saw a man walk from the direction of my side porch into the car and drive away.  It was dark and I couldn’t see too clearly, but he had the same crew cut as my birth-sister’s husband, and was also wearing just a dark sweatshirt with no jacket, as my brother-in-law did, even in the winter.  I went back to bed and forgot about it in the excitement of the next day’s celebration.

     On Christmas morning we discovered four packages on the porch for our kids, two for each child.  Two packages were labeled with the child’s name and signed with love from one of our cousins and his family, who had been passing by around 11 the night before and left the gifts on the porch.  The other two packages (with strangely similar handwriting) were labeled with each child’s name, but not signed.  We assumed they were all from the same family, until we spoke to them the next day and found out they had only left the signed packages.

     It was then that I remembered the car and the man in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve.  We then realized that the unsigned packages were probably from my birth-sister to my sons, whom she hadn’t spoken to in over a year.  I told my sons (who were teenagers at the time), that after the holidays, they should write a thank-you note to their aunt & uncle, but they declined.  They felt that their aunt didn’t want them to know who the packages were from or she would have signed them, and they also seemed a little disturbed by how they had  been delivered. My husband and I had to admit we agreed with them.

     When you realize that most likely these people were parked down the block in the middle of the night, watching our house for who knows how long, and waiting for the lights to go out at 2AM, so they could leave anonymous packages on our porch, you can see why this is a little disturbing.  It is an uncomfortable feeling to think you are under surveillance by people who aren’t speaking to you, and therefore, certainly could not be considered friendly.  Even if they leave a gift, which normally would be a nice thing to do, these circumstances make it seem sinister instead.

     Another example of this strange behavior comes from my birth-father, who, after maliciously instigating the destruction of the only family he had left, drove by our home on a regular basis for almost seven years- right up until the day we moved away!  He actually parked his car across the street and sat and watched our house.  Often our attention was drawn to him by cars honking at him as he slowed up in the middle of the street to get a look.  We have all plainly seen him many times, but apparently he thinks he is invisible!

     All of this behavior is just what is sounds like- STALKING!  It is very creepy! And all of these people would rather be thought of as mentally unstable than to just do the normal thing and apologize.  They are willing to do everything but.  Even though none of their bizarre behavior is working and is causing people to avoid them even more, the one thing that actually stands a chance of working, they won’t do!

     Why this aversion to the words ‘I’m sorry’?  Many people hate to admit they’re wrong.  Many do not want to own up to or take responsibility for their words or actions.  They do not want to have to make up for what they did, or make restitution, and they are afraid this will be expected of them, as well it should be. 

     Others do not want to agree to change their behavior, and they are afraid this will be expected of them, as it certainly should be.  Otherwise, the person who was hurt has no reason to trust her betrayer or to believe that their relationship will be any better in the future.

     Fear of rejection is another factor.  The offender is afraid his apology will not be accepted, or that he will be forgiven, but the person he hurt will not wish to reconcile.  Or the victim may not agree to renewing the relationship until some time has passed and the offender puts some effort into proving he has changed his ways.  Many abusive people do not want to be in the ‘one-down’ position of having to prove themselves to another person.  They prefer the ‘one-up’ position of others constantly trying to please them.

     All of these obstacles to apologizing can be consolidated into one word-PRIDE!  The Leviathan Spirit of Pride has been the downfall of many people.  It has caused disagreements to become permanent rifts and has been the death of many relationships.  The discomfort of having to apologize in order to get back into someone’s good graces, without the assurance of knowing if it will work, is simply a natural consequence of behaving badly. Each offender has a  choice to make:  Does she want restoration of the relationship and peace of mind badly enough to do the right thing, or not? 

     Those who allow their pride to stop them from making amends or righting a wrong they have committed are doomed to a very lonely life.  It is by humbling themselves that they stand the greatest chance of having their apology accepted and restoring their relationships!

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall…Proverbs 16:18NIV

Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own…..Proverbs 26:17 NIV

If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:  go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!…..Proverbs 6:2-3NIV

      ***For how to tell a real apology from a worthless one, see Meaningful vs. Meaningless Apologies.

      ***Also, see The 3 Rs Of Accountability: Repentance, Restitution, and Personal Responsibility.