“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” – Robert Brault
An old friend resurrected last week. We had been really close at some point in our lives until quite a few years ago when things went downhill. Even though he had been one of my best friends until then, the betrayal was so profound that I never saw a way back to our friendship and he never owned up to any of it. While the story happened a long time ago and I haven’t thought about it in years, when he found me randomly on Facebook and sent me a message, it still took me a few days to respond. It wasn’t that I still felt the pain or the betrayal, it was because I was trying to figure out if there’s any part of me that believes it was worth it to have this person in my life again. Once I decided I was willing to give it a shot, the response came quickly.
It turns out, one of the first things he did once I responded was to apologize and own up to what he had done so many years ago. And while I appreciated the intention and it definitely opened up things for us to become friends again, a door that had been closed until then, I couldn’t help but wonder why it had taken him so many years to do this. I figured since we had been such good friends about a decade ago, I could just ask him that question directly during a Skype conversation. He got tears in his eyes as he brought himself up to respond: “I realized I had fucked up so badly and I was so ashamed that all I could do was run and hide. As time went by, I regretted my decision more and more and the more I let time pass, the more I thought you would never even listen to an apology so I just kept hiding away and avoiding reality. It’s like ducking under a wave for too long. At some point, you run out of air.”
It got me thinking about the times when I have made mistakes in my life and never owned up to them, when I just buried my head in the sand, hoping it will just pass. At times, it actually did pass, but so did the relationship I had with that person. And then I remembered the times when I did own up to my mistakes, when I stood in front of the person I had wronged, I apologized, I tried to fix things and our relationship became stronger than ever because we were able to move through that, but at the same time because we had learned the most valuable lesson: “You don’t destroy the things you love.”
As I rebuild a relationship that was destroyed a decade ago, I wonder how things would have been different if we hadn’t waited so long to have this conversation. If he had owned up to his mistake and if I hadn’t been so hurt as to not see a way anymore. If you look at your life, do you have relationships that have been destroyed because of terrible mistakes? Or people who meant the world to you that you hurt in the most horrible way? Or maybe they hurt you and you just never forgot that? Which of those relationships are worth you being the bigger person and having that conversation that will be the beginning of a new beginning?