As children, most of us were prompted by our parents to apologize when we did something hurtful or offensive to someone. We complied, mostly because it’s what our parents told us to do and because we were told that by saying sorry, we would help the other person to feel better about what happened. However, just like forgiveness, apologizing also offers a long list of intrinsic benefits. And in some cases, offering a sincere apology can benefit us even more than it does the receiver.
In recent weeks, two public figures have come forward and demonstrated remorse for some of the negative things that they’ve done in the past. One person was Kenya Moore. After ending her long-lived feud with Phaedra Parks, the Real Housewives of Atlanta star expressed remorse for not distancing herself from Parks’ ex-husband, Apollo Nida after Parks had expressed discomfort with their interactions.
“Absolutely,” Moore said during a recent appearance on Watch What Happens Live in response to a question about whether or not she regretted how she handled the situation. “I think I could have just distanced myself from Apollo altogether, not been so chummy-chummy, especially when it bothered his wife.”
In a similar fashion, Wendy Williams recently apologized for initiating a petty, short-lived feud with Evelyn Lozada after she referred to the reality star’s child as a cash register.
While folks may be wondering why these women are suddenly so remorseful for things that happened such a long time ago, both occurrences speak to the transformative impact of time, maturity, and lived experiences. Hindsight is, in fact, 20/20 and while it may seem like a good idea to just move forward and leave the past where it is when you have a revelation that you’ve wronged someone, returning to that person and apologizing is probably an even better idea. Here’s why.
First and foremost, apologizing for something that you know for a fact you’ve done wrong will work wonders for your conscience. The weight of guilt being carried in secret is heavy, so release it by shedding light on the situation and tell the person how you feel.
Any long-term relationship, romantic or platonic, is going to be tried and tested. The longer you are in a relationship with a person, the greater the chances are that you will do something to hurt them. What separates surface-level relationships from deep, meaningful ones is vulnerability. Humbling yourself enough to apologize and move forward in a relationship in the wake of conflict will only help to strengthen the bond that you’ve built with your loved one.
Modeling healthy relationships for children
By acknowledging when you’ve done wrong and offering to make amends for your missteps, you help to model healthy relationships for the children in your life. Kids learn about relationships by watching adults and when they see the grown-ups admit to being wrong, they learn that it’s okay to take accountability and admit when you’ve made a mistake.
When you make the decision to apologize to someone, especially after a decent amount of time has passed, you are forced to be self-reflective. Since you’re bringing up the past, you have to choose your words carefully to ensure that your apology is sincere and meaningful. This self-reflection can have transformative benefits that can make you a better person in the present.
Recognizing that you’ve wronged someone after previously believing otherwise is a tell-tale sign of growth and maturity. You’ve grown enough to reflect and admit to yourself that you’ve messed up. Following up, acknowledging your missteps to the person, and delivering a sincere apology will create an opportunity for even more growth.
Admitting to yourself that you were wrong requires humility, but speaking the words aloud and asking for forgiveness is even more humbling. Humility is one of the most important attributes that anyone can possess. Studies have shown that humble people are better at managing stress and report greater levels of physical and emotional well-being.
A more positive mindset
When you’re not carrying the guilt connected to a mistake you’ve made, you have more mental energy to devote to positivity. As explained by Psychology Today, unresolved guilt has a negative impact on creativity, productivity, and concentration. It can also dramatically impact your ability to enjoy life.
A motivator for changed behavior
It’s one thing to tell yourself that you messed up and you’ll never do x,y,z again. But a whole extra layer of accountability is added when you utter those words aloud to another person. After all, the absolute best apology is changed behavior.
While extrinsic forgiveness can help to bring healing, it’s not as helpful unless you actually release the past and forgive yourself as well. However, when you apologize to someone for wronging them in the past, it can be a helpful step on the journey to forgiving yourself and finding healing.
Haboring guilt and shame can have disastrous effects on one’s self-esteem, which is why there is power in apologizing to the people you care about. You expose the misstep, accept accountability, forgive yourself, and release the guilt. If after all of that, you’re still finding it difficult to let go of the shame, it can be helpful to connect with a therapist.