Step 254: When issuing an apology, consider whether you are giving it for the other person or for yourself
This is not for small, run-of-the-mill “I’m sorry I spilled nacho cheese on your dog”-type apologies. This is for apologies about more consequential things, apologies for when you have really hurt someone else.
When we hurt people, if we’re not sociopaths, it feels terrible. We should apologize as sincerely and humbly as we can, not do it again, and hope that person forgives us.
But if they don’t — or they didn’t and probably never will know about the transgression, or the wound is years old, or whatever — then ask yourself whether this apology will disrupt this person’s life. Are doing it for them, or yourself?
Because apologies we issue for ourselves, so that we can continue to live in our own skin, so that hopefully the guilt will dissipate — that is about you. That’s not about the wronged person. And if asking for their forgiveness only serves to inadvertedly harm them further, then skip it. Live with your guilt, and every time you feel it, remind yourself that you will never do that again.
Sincere regret is important. When someone has hurt us, its display can help provide closure. But if this person found their own closure, years ago, popping in and sort of de-stabiizing that closure isn’t the best move.