There are a lot of things that I have done wrong in my life. I’m a normal human-being and if I didn’t have a slight trail of mistakes in my life, then I don’t think I’d be living the way that most people do. I’ve hurt people in the past and it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve learnt a very valuable lesson when it comes to asking for forgiveness. The lesson? They don’t have to forgive you.
I learnt this lesson when I was 21. I’d been in an almost two-year relationship and I did something really stupid. It wasn’t the worst thing I could have done by a long-shot but it was pretty awful. I don’t make excuses about it anymore, but what is there to say really? I made a terrible drunk mistake, I was honest, I told them straight away- and although I never intended for it to happen, it did.
I would never forgive my partner kissing someone else- and yet, when I had done it, I expected there to be forgiveness. Hurt- sure, mountains of it. Trust broken- yep, and I was willing to work on it. I had assumed that my honesty, remorse and the fact I was literally heartbroken that I’d been so stupid would be enough to save that relationship. But of course, it wasn’t.
I think what my ex did was the exact right thing to do. I had broken the trust, hurt him and he removed himself and we had a total clean break. In hindsight, he was the sensible one, the one who knew his worth and I admire him for making that tough decision. I was young, stupid and I regret ever hurting someone like that- but there are lessons that come from shit happening to you, and the forgiveness lesson is that.
I apologised. I apologised thousands of times. I explained that the situation was more complicated than it appeared. I explained that I hadn’t been the one who initiated it, I explained how drunk I was… I made excuse after excuse- but in the end, I think I was actually only trying to make myself feel better.
Because that’s just it. If you have fucked up and later have apologised- then damn- good for you. I cheerlead people who can admit to their bad behaviour or have the realisation that actually what they did wasn’t very nice- but when it comes down to actually making an apology, let me be clear- it’s for your benefit alone.
An apology does not mean that someone has to forgive you. Sure- you can clear your conscience and know that you’ve done the right thing by admitting it, but at the end of the day they are entitled to feel however the hell they want in response to it.
If you have done a shitty thing, then you do not get to dictate how that person responds to it. You do not get to assume that that will clear the problem, make things better or ever take things back to the way that they once were because that’s not the way life works.
Don’t get me wrong here- if someone accepts your apology, then I think it’s only fair that they don’t continue to bring it back up over and over again- but ultimately, forgiveness is a response to hurt that you are not necessarily entitled to. It’s sad that I had to learn that one the hard way- but it’s a lesson that I’ll never forget and a mistake I wouldn’t dream of making ever again.