Apologising is (almost) the Scariest Thing Ever

I think I filled my quota of scary things this week.

I made an appointment and went to a doctor-type-person all by myself–and I am terrified of doctor-type-people, official-looking paperwork, appointments, and the smell of antiseptic.

I also filled out a graduation application and began the process of hunting down all the necessary people for signatures–and I am terrified to see my entire education laid out in black lines on white paper.

Oh, and I apologised to a friend.

Asking For Forgiveness

More than anything, I am terrified of admitting weakness. I fear the emptiness of the freefall from complacency and justification to vulnerability and admission. Somehow the slight chance you’re already over it because my offence resulted from an innocent oversight feels safe, and I hate abandoning that safety to confront the strong likelihood that my actions truly hurt you, no matter why they happened.

When someone apologises to me, I usually think, “Wow. I admire you so much for being willing to admit your mistake. Of course we can still be friends.” When I apologise to someone else, I expect them to be thinking, “Nope. You blew it. It was probably intentional. I’ll never think of you the same way again.”

In cognitive psychology, that’s considered the result of irrational thinking–the idea that a different standard applies to me than to you, that if I make one mistake it will forever ruin our entire relationship.

know that, but it doesn’t change the fact that I lost sleep debating whether or not to apologise. The fact that I considered taking a different path to class when I saw him on the sidewalk ahead of me. The fact that when I finally decided to catch up and apologise, my shallow breathing left me lightheaded. And while I forced out the words and phrases that barely resembled the coherent apology I’d rehearsed in my mind, my heart raced and my palms sweated. My words tumbled out in a scrambled mess of stops and starts, stutters and stammers, and for a moment I didn’t think he even understood my mangled attempt at making things right.

And then he said something which the adrenaline of the situation immediately erased from my memory but which I think conveyed the idea of, “It’s alright. I’m not mad. We can still be friends.”

…and I immediately wondered, Is he serious? Or is he just saying that? Maybe he’s still mad, but it’s polite to accept an apology, so he’s accepting it. Maybe we can’t still be friends.

And no matter how many times I remind myself that he’s generally quite honest, that he seemed sincere, that my offence wasn’t really big enough to merit his eternal bitterness, I still catch myself at odd moments holding my breath over the entire situation. I feel my stomach knotting or realise my hands are clenched, and I tell myself to calm down, to trust him, to believe that if he says it’s okay, it’s okay.

So it turns out apologising isn’t the only thing I’m afraid of.

It turns out being forgiven is pretty scary, too.



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