Before I go any further, please note this article is not entitled "How to Forgive Without an Apology." I'd hate to mislead anyone into thinking I had some magical solution at the bottom of your page. But if you appreciate this buzzkill’s honesty upfront, let’s proceed.
Six weeks ago I was cruising down Wilshire Blvd, probably blasting Kelly Clarkson’s Invincible with the Cali sun shining and my hair free-styling with all the windows down. I had just left my bestie’s spin class that followed a delicious breakfast with her and was heading to my Godsend of a therapist, wearing my favorite dress carefully selected for a fun audition later, thinking, “Damn my quality of life is pretty great for a Tuesday,” when BANG--I got rear-ended and crashed into the car ahead of me.
The wind knocked out of me. My arms were bright red and tingling from banging the wheel. I clung to my neck where I felt a bizarre, intense, heat sensation, and just froze in complete shock.
I eventually glanced in the rearview mirror at Edwin, (of course his name is EDWIN) still in his car, aggressively signaling for me to turn on to the quieter street, immediately indicating that this gobshite didn’t give a rat’s arse about my well-being, making this stubborn Irish woman not budge til I feckin’ felt like it.
Edwin finally gets out of his unscathed Lexus and in the most apathetic tone as he’s watching me cry and attempt to catch my breath says, “Uhhhhhh sorry? You were moving, I was moving. Then you stopped and I stopped. Can you turn the corner?”
I'm still surprised expletives didn’t roll off my tongue. In the midst of the chaos I said, “I can tell you’re really sorry!” I laugh at this irony because of all the times I’ve lashed out and regretted it, but this time I checked myself only to regret having not said, “I can tell you’re really %&*#$ sorry.” (Oh yeah-- that would have really stuck it to Edwin, I know.)
Logistical information was exchanged and Edwin couldn’t have wanted to get out of there faster, leaving myself and the woman I hit dumbfounded by his lack of empathy, only then to discover that he gave me a fake phone number. Which by the way Edwin, we have all your other info so what was that move about? Did you really think I was going to prank you in the middle of the night saying your Viagra refills were at their maximum capacity and that there’s nothing else we can do for you? Uch! Would have been so good.
The self-help nerd that I am still made it to therapy, despite my therapist offering to reschedule and the awkwardly crooked way I was sitting across from her because dammit, not only was I wronged but he did NOT. PROPERLY. APOLOGIZE.
My therapist is a really special person and probably the only one who could get away with her next question at the peak of my volatile state:
“What’s coming up for you around being hurt by others who never took responsibility or apologized in the past?”
(Cue the “aha!” moment.)
I am the queen of preaching that if you don’t heal your past, the same issue will rear its ugly head in all kinds of ways until you actively work through it—not just talk about it. This isn’t to say that I haven’t done an intense amount of work on someone I loved deeply who took betrayal to a whole ‘nother level, leaving me a shell of a person for a very long time. But there are still moments when I am haunted by that emotionally abusive relationship—I’ve come a long way but to say all is completely forgiven (without an apology) would be a lie.
This AHA reminded me of a quote from a dear friend who’s in Al Anon, once shared: “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” Because let’s be real—why take Edwin’s (in my opinion) poor behavior so personally? He’s a disconnected middle-aged man I’ll probably never see again.
Like I said, I don’t have a magical solution for forgiving without an apology, but I will offer this gem of a question created by the great Byron Katie who’s work I apply into my life on a daily basis:
"Who would you be without this thought?"
If I had a mini-stroke that wiped the thought from my brain saying, “He owes me an apology,” I would be someone who isn’t walking around with a chip on my shoulder. I would be someone who doesn’t identify with being a victim, which for me would mean complete freedom. I would enter into every intimate relationship without fear of getting blindsided by lies and deceit. I would have compassion for a man who probably wasn’t having as great of a Tuesday as I was, if I were to go out on a limb and guess.
All I have control over is my reaction and how I choose to perceive the situation, which still goes to a dark place when I’m at the mercy of my physical therapist’s hands around my neck twice a week.
But again, it’s a choice. Every day I have the option to fixate on the painful thoughts, or focus on the people I love, the awe-inspiring clients I’m so honored to work with, and my mission to spread the word that there is always a way to feel better that’s authentic to you. Always. It doesn’t have to be forgiveness if you’re not ready. It can simply be what best serves you in the moment. And for me in this moment, Edwin still needs to apologize.
That was a joke. I’m sorry.
I did apologize…