“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” ~Alexander Pope
I take exception to his quote because I feel that it leaves much undone; like saying that 2=4. To be correct, the equation needs something additional, as does Mr. Pope’s quote. To err is surely human and to forgive, divine, but we cannot seek forgiveness from someone that we have wronged without a true and sincere apology.
To Err is Human
Yesterday, I lost my cool with a certain person and we ended up in a “tit-for-tat” argument that ended badly. As in nearly all cases, we were both to blame. We both contributed to the poor emotional exchange, and we both held inaccurate assumptions which ultimately led to the whole ugly scene.
As I stared at the phone, I was angry. She had not listened to anything that I tried to say. She had hung up on ME! I didn’t feel as if I had done anything wrong and she was being unreasonable. I felt angry and hurt. I also felt incredibly stupid for letting my emotions get the best of me. I am a yoga teacher, and I should be able to control my feelings at all times (well – in my daydreams maybe).
As I stared at the phone, I couldn’t deny that I had clearly flushed my “peace” and “emotional maturity” down the drain. I had given in to my hot buttons and had allowed the situation to escalate. At any one of those tense moments, I could have chosen to take a breath and to resume a calm and cool voice, kind words and better attitude. Sadly, I didn’t, and I was left with a potentially ruined day because I was now carrying a load of toxic emotional baggage.
To Apologize, Required
As I reflected on the situation, I slowly came to the awful realization that I had a made a mistake (imagine that) and that my “side” of the argument wasn’t valid. I was not excusing her actions, either, because she had made a terribly inaccurate assumption about me, as well, but I knew that I was wrong. For my mental health, I had to apologize to make my emotional baggage dissipate. I did not want to apologize because I was still angry from our confrontation, and now I felt like a complete ass.
To Forgive, Divine
My inner resolve made me call her back and upon my sincere apology, she immediately apologized, as well. We calmly discussed our positions and came to the realization that we had both been mistaken. Problem solved. Forgiveness both asked and graciously given.
I could now move on with my day free of a heavy bag of guilt that would have continued to take its toll upon my health.
For some reason, I have always been able to apologize when required. I have never liked to apologize, but I don’t believe I could live with myself if I knew that I had failed in my duty to right a wrong that I had created. I realize that not all situations end with a peaceful exchange of forgiveness, and I am always taking an emotional gamble of being refused when I offer my token of peace.
Aren’t we all scared to roll over and expose our weakness in a humble position of submission when we offer a true apology for our actions? Setting our protective gear down in the middle of a battle is scary but as true seekers of peace, we must be willing to humble ourselves when we have injured another person wrongly.
Besides gaining inner peace for ourselves, when we sincerely apologize and straighten out the situation with the other person, we provide them with an opportunity to learn. In my situation (and most others), we were both wrong. When we finally discussed our feelings and expectations rationally, I was able to teach her how to better understand me and my point of view. I have no doubts that just as I learned, she learned, as well. When we fail to apologize, we fail to provide a learning opportunity for better responses in the future.
As you go about your day today, remember, if you fail to apologize because you don’t want to look like an ass, realize that you already are an ass to the person you have wronged.