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Please Say "I'm Sorry." Yell It If Need Be!
on April 29, 2005
There are four parts of the apology process: acknowledgment, remorse, explanation, and reparation. These were exemplified in Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address, concerning slavery, placing the blame on the whole country and not just the South. This book is not just about personal relationships, but he probes into the war offenses by Germany and the United States' treatment of Japanese-Americans, both during WWII.
A grudge is a form of dormant anger sometimes over a trivial matter, such as making an insulting comment about someone's appearance; it's a combination of resentment and memory long after the "offense" has occurred.
When siblings squabble over a parent's estate and feels that one received or took more than he deserved or when they erroneously felt that responsibility for the care of a dying parent was not evenly shared, it's a big deal. It is common for this grudge to be held for the remainder of their lives. It's not caused by guilt but by a feeling of being wrongly treated by the "victor."
To apologize for making a mistake or had used the wrong word which offended the other person causing emotional pain, apology is needed and works only if you value the person; otherwise, it is a useless gesture. An apology has to be accepted for any forgiveness or healing of the wound however caused, deliberately or callously without meaning harm. It caused humiliation and if not sincerely and honestly expressed, can prompt the "victim" to seek vengeance. It is easy to apologize but not so easy to be gracious enough to put things back together again.
When I was going through a very painful experience of divorce twenty-five years ago, a friend's young daughter could not understand why I was unable to do what her family kept praying for, and I sat down on the back steps to explain to her that sometimes a person can hurt you so much (not physically) and you cannot live with them anymore. She accepted my explanation but not the fact that their prayers were not answered.
A simple apology is not sufficient if emotional and verbal abuse had been consistent over a number of years. Sometimes it takes a minor incident to be the 'straw which broke the camel's back.' Prolonged stress and criticism cause more pain than physical abuse. To ever heal, you have to remove the stressor and the only way to do that is through the courts. It is easy to get married, but not so easy to divorce and ever trust another man. After I suffered from chronic nerve pain for ten years, my abuser finally apologized for making fun of my pain and not believing it could possibly be so bad (after he had a back operation and had to give in and take pain pills), but it was too late to be accepted. There's only so much humiliation a person can accept.
When a person refuses to apologize, he doesn't feel he's done anything wrong and instead has a real reason not to give in. They say you can forgive but never forget when a person has intentionally hurt you to the core. Sometimes there is no way to make reparation.
Dr. Lazare wrote an article on apology in 'Psychology Today,' very well received; thus, he's become a leading authority on the psychology of shame and humiliation. He's a psychiatrist who taught at Harvard Medical School and now holds a position at the University of Mass. Medical School in Worcester.