I’m Sorry I Find It Hard To Say I’m Sorry

Per my last post, I have definitely been in the position where I had to forgive others without an apology I felt entitled to. In the past, I have let the absence of apologies control my inner peace and the ability to get closure on certain topics. I would, and sometimes still, get so passionate about feeling entitled to an apology that I cling onto the thought for some time. But I’ve also been on the other side of the situation where I owe someone an apology and can’t find the words to say it. Yes my friends, surprise surprise, there is some hypocrisy and double standards present. Nobody is perfect, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not. If I claim to keep it real, I have to keep it all the way real. This is the opposite side of last week’s post, the other side of the coin, not being able to apologize.

Growing up, apologies weren’t given in my household. And when this topic was brought up with cousins and close friends, I realized that my personal upbringing is not too far fetched from the experience of others. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, a generational gap thing, or what it is, but it seemed to be somewhat the same talking to others about their family dynamic. I can only speak for my own personal experience and the experiences of others that I have talked to, but it seems to be the gap between first generation Filipino Americans with their Philippines-born and raised parents. We have a lot of similarities with apologies and not being able to admit wrong doing through the generations.

Growing up, and to this day, apologies are not common in my family. That is not to say that apologies were never called for – because ohhhhh they definitely were – but they simply were not normalized in my household. I don’t know how “normal” or “not normal,” that is, but it seems to be a common experience for first generation Filipino Americans and their parents. There was no saying sorry, and if there was an apology being made, it was very rare. So rare, that I can’t even think of a specific time where I received a serious apology from someone in my immediate family without it being said in a silly downplayed voice. My parents rarely apologize to us, we rarely apologize to them, and my sisters and I don’t apologize to each other. This may be weird to some, but that’s our family dynamic.

So you’re probably wondering, how does your family move forward after an argument or after hurt feelings? Great question. The answer is this: you’re salty for a couple of days, or however long it takes you to get over it, and then you make up for it by either over compensating with food, or acting like nothing happened. There’s no conversation after to talk over your feelings, there’s no taking ownership of your part, there’s no acknowledgement of what transpired. You suppress that shit until the next time you explode. Yes, unhealthy, I know. But that’s the reality of it all. I’m not saying it’s the right way to go about things, but it’s how we go about things.

In my Filipino household, we express our love language in different ways. Just because there was an absence of apologies, didn’t mean we were never sorry. We definitely felt bad, reflected on our actions, and regretted poor choice of actions or words. Our problem was never lacking empathy, it was expressing that empathy verbally. So, instead of facing conflict head on, we learned to express ourselves through acts of service and food, completely ignoring and avoiding the real issues. I didn’t get it until I was older, but it’s a cycle being repeated. A cycle that we are not so proud of as we are aware that there are better ways to deal with post-conflict. But I get it, it’s how my parents, and their parents, and my grandparent’s parents (and so forth) were taught to behave. It was different times then, and I come from a long lineage of strong individuals who endured even the roughest of times with grace. They handled their shit because they had to. In their times of struggle, they had no time to communicate their feelings, they had to keep it moving and be strong. But times are different now, and maintaining that strong persona and not expressing emotions properly has it’s repercussions. I can appreciate and admire my ancestors’ resilience and strength while simultaneously analyzing how harmful these coping mechanisms can be.

Culturally, Filipinos are taught to be strong, respect their elders, and never speak out against those superior to you. However, this way of thinking pushes the notion that some people are entitled to apologies while others are not, completely disregarding someone else’s reality due to pride and status in the family, relationship, or setting. Filipinos are taught to never disrespect their elders, and a lot of the time, that meant disagreeing or articulating your stance on a topic. This creates a damaging cycle that enables an echo chamber of beliefs that are not necessarily true or correct, but more so upheld to keep the peace. And that generational gap from first generation Filipino Americans and their parents / family members is a significant shift of beliefs. First generation Filipinos are in that awkward position trying to juggle two cultures with very conflicting beliefs when it comes to standing up for what you believe in, standing up for what you think is right, but also respecting the cultural differences.

This cultural difference was more apparent, for example, when I would watch some of my favorite family sitcoms like Full House, The Cosby Show, That’s So Raven, Boy Meets World, The Parkers, and many others. Anytime there was a scene that got too sappy with the characters expressing their feelings, I would lowkey cringe. And if I was watching it with my sisters, we would comment and make fun of the characters having a moment with their parent or people close to them. It wouldn’t be uncommon for us to say things like, “Ew,” “Yeah right,” “Haha, hella ugly,” while watching these moments on TV. To us, it felt unrealistic, just because our upbringing was so different. We didn’t have sappy moments where we expressed ourselves to be vulnerable. In fact, we used to label is as an “American” thing – we weren’t brought up to communicate those difficult feelings. For us, we kept a mental note and kept it moving.

This is where it gets confusing, because in my personal relationships and friendships, communication is key. Accepting and taking ownership of your own actions is key. Being open about what I feel and what I like and dislike is key. But that’s not what I’m accustomed to. It’s ironic that these are things that are important to me, but at times I am unable to do them myself. Now that I’m an adult and know what characteristics I want in a partner, friend, and future children, it also makes me reflect on what kind of characteristics I need to have as well to make it successful. It comes so easy to me as a teacher, teaching the kids to express their feelings, validating them and letting them know it’s okay to feel the way they do, and that I hear them. It’s important to me talk things out with kids and give apologies when apologies are due so they know that just because I’m an adult, it doesn’t mean I am above making mistakes. I have no problem setting the example for the youth, but find it very difficult to take my own advice and express myself to others.

You never really know your flaws until something happens and you reflect on why it happened the way it did. For me, that self-realization moment was when I realized that I have a really hard time apologizing. For the record, I have no problem apologizing to people when I’m completely in the wrong, being an asshole, or messed up in some way. I can admit and own up to my shortcomings if necessary. I also know that my sense of humor can sometimes be high key banter, so I can acknowledge when I cross boundaries with others. The scenarios that I’m talking about where I persevere with my pride, are the times I’m arguing with someone to make a point, to express my opposing point of view and reality, and any scenario where there is arguing involved. Those are the times I push on with my stubborn ways and find it difficult to apologize to others.

Deep down I always knew that I had a lot of pride and found it difficult to apologize to others in an argument. My excuse used to be “that’s just how I am,” and rolled with it. Obviously being young and immature, I didn’t care to reflect on the “why” behind the struggle to say “I’m sorry,” to others. It wasn’t until I started dating and being in relationships did I realize that my unapologetic nature could be more than a minor complication. It wasn’t that I was remorseless, because I am a deeply empathetic person. However, when I think I am right in a situation, I stick to my guns.

I am very confident in my opinions, and I got the time to hash it out. When I get upset, I can say the nastiest things. My goal is to win – whether that be spitting facts, saying the better come back, or just saying the most hurtful things. And it takes a lot for me to verbally apologize. On the inside, I could fully articulate how I feel in my head, even through text. But when it comes to verbally giving apologies, I just can’t do it. And when I do, it takes an insulting amount of time for the words to fall out of my mouth.

It wasn’t until my current relationship did I realize it was a problem I had to change and fix. In the past, I was aware of the problem, but just took it as a slight personality flaw that could be tucked under the rug. I soon realized that there was no rug big enough in the world to tuck this shit under. It was no longer “cute” or acceptable to have it be that hard to give an apology, especially when an apology is owed. This wasn’t just petty arguing with my immediate family anymore. This time around, it was with someone who is choosing to be with me, but definitely doesn’t have to stay in my life. It was with someone who was willing to work with me through my very ugly moments in hopes that I would grow and learn for future reference.

That’s when I realized it was a huge problem – when I realized that a small (but obviously big) action like apologizing was one of the hardest things for me to do. When I reflected on why it’s so difficult for me to do so, my upbringing was obviously one of the first things I thought of. But it was deeper than that. Giving someone an apology is acknowledging your faults, letting your guard down, and it takes some level of thought provoking deep diving into one’s own actions. As childish as it sounds, I grew up believing that saying “I’m sorry,” was a sign of weakness. Apologizing first meant that you’ve admitted to all the blame, you acknowledge that they’re right and you’re wrong, and shows that you’re the “loser” in the argument. That’s why in the past I never caved into giving apologies first. I refused to be vulnerable and express my emotions.

Vulnerability is scary and uncomfortable. Especially when you are not used to expressing yourself verbally, emotional vulnerability is nearly impossible. I feel like I’m a lot better with expressing my emotions and allowing myself to be vulnerable with others. I have to consciously make the effort and think it out in my head before I verbally express myself. But in the past, it wasn’t easy at all. In arguments and fights, I avoided opening up. To open up back then, a huge argument where unkind words were spoken would have to happen first before there is any emotions being expressed. There was no way around it. You want me to open up? You have to weather the storm with me first – see me at my absolute worst so you can get the apology or clarity you need from me.

It’s not that I can’t apologize period, but that I can’t be the first one to apologize. I can say it in return, but being the first to apologize was as rare as snow in San Francisco – possible, just highly unlikely. I preferred the other party to initiate reconciliation, and I’m very stubborn about it. There were plenty of times where I simply did not budge at all. “There is no way in hell that I’m admitting to my faults before you do. That would be asking too much of me,” I would think to myself. I needed the other party to be the bigger person and let their guard down first. How can I possibly let my guard down when my defensive walls are built so high? How does someone even attempt to chip away at the thick emotional barrier I surrounded around my hurt feelings? Opening up that dam of emotions first was a sign of weakness that I simply couldn’t show.

That right there – not wanting to come off as “weak”- was the root of it all. The satisfaction of someone else apologizing first and me just following their lead was a game that I couldn’t play for long. At one point, I had to give in. And not because I had to, but because playing mind games to be the winner only made me the biggest loser in the end. It only brought hurt feelings, invalidation, and resentment. It wasn’t worth it. Pride can be an ugly emotion. It can drive you to act a certain way that is completely different from what you feel inside. It no longer felt good or like a victory to push others to their absolute worst. I would feel horrible about myself and hated the way I went about conflict and confrontation. I hated that I found it so difficult to apologize.

It seemed I could only healthily communicate my hurt and my frustration through text message. No matter how many times I rehearsed a conversation in my head, it would never turn out the way I had anticipated. Once I vocalize my emotions and how I feel, the flood gates open up. It didn’t matter if I was sad, mad, or felt any other difficult emotion, the simple act of verbalizing that emotion brought my inner bad bitch bad ass to her fucking knees. And that was a feeling I hated – being vulnerable. That vulnerability would have me in a crying fit of rage, aggravated that I had to express myself. It’s so much easier to be upset and angry than it is to express your emotions. But no one is a mind reader. And your point won’t be understood until it is made.

Growing up not expressing frustration, hurt feelings, or anything that will stir the pot is probably a big reason why I write. It’s not that I don’t have the words to verbally communicate my feelings, it’s more so that I don’t know how to control my emotions to make sure that my tone lines up with what I’m feeling and thinking in my head. A lot of the time I go into defense mode because I feel attacked. Sometimes it can be because I’m actually being attacked, but others times it’s because I’m not used to being confronted with verbal expression. As a little kid, I turned to writing to fully express myself, mostly through fictional stories where the main character resembled me.

But even as an adult, I find myself dealing with conflict by writing. Most of the time that means through text. I have the ability to think out what I want to write, sit on it, read it over, and make sure I’m getting my point across in a mature manner. Communicating my hurt feelings verbally is something I have yet to master. For me, it can go south really fast. The moment someone responds in a way that wasn’t what I expected, I can lose my cool when I have promised myself to keep my composure. Writing allows me to reply on my time, and take time to cool down. It allows me to pick and choose my words wisely, and set the tone for the conversation at hand.

This is still something that I am working on to this day. I know I usually write about things as if I have already figured it out and mastered whatever topic I’m writing about. But a lot of the time, that’s just me being self-aware and adding onto what I know is the right way to handle things. We are all a work in progress, and I know I have a lot of healing and relearning to do as an adult. I know that I need to nurture my inner child and dig deeper as to why I have difficulty in some scenarios. It is okay to know what the “healthy” thing to do is but still choose old ways of handling it. It’s okay to take 1 step forward and 3 steps back. It’s okay to still be learning. Nobody knows it all, and nobody is perfect. Apologizing and owning up to my shit is still something that I struggle with. This is still something that I’m working on. And that’s okay. The first step is being aware and attempting to better your ways. Like everything else, it will take baby steps.

Learning to communicate is something you work on for the rest of your life. Acknowledging your own short comings and flaws is the first step to actually changing those habits. I know I have a tough time apologizing to others and verbally communicating how I feel, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be stuck in my ways. Breaking the cycle is not an easy thing to do, but it’s not impossible.

Forgiveness Without An Apology

One of the worst feelings there is is feeling like someone close to you did you wrong, played you, betrayed you, disrespected you, used you, took you for granted, and the list goes on. This isn’t just limited to romantic partners – there are so many more relationships out there that can have the same aftermath of hurt and bitterness equivalent to a break up. Friendships, romantic relationships, professional relationships, acquaintance relationships, family relationships, can all turn sour in the blink of an eye. But when someone, especially when it’s someone really close to you, betrays your trust or disrespects you in some way, it can be hard to forgive. Especially if you plan to cut off the communication and walk away from the friendship or relationship, it can get very complicated. You’re left feeling hurt and robbed in multiple ways.

How do you forgive someone that never gave you an apology?

This is one of those situations where you know the right answer on how to react and go about it the “healthy” way, but it’s so fucking hard to practice in real life. Scenarios like these, trying to forgive someone and heal without an apology, is the perfect example of “easier said than done.” You know that you’re supposed to take the higher road and just forgive and move on. But how do you forgive without an apology? Is an apology needed to get closure? Who is the closure actually for? What does an apology achieve? What if they don’t think an apology is owed?

This is a topic that has come up time and time again with my different circle of friends. Even though everyone’s scenario is different, forgiveness without an apology is a common pickle to be in. It got me thinking about my own personal struggles with forgiving people who never gave me an apology. It’s so much more different when you’re giving someone else advice about closure, moving past hurt feelings, and being the bigger person through forgiveness. Offering my own past and present experiences as examples has allowed me to see how the past me vs. the present me would deal with things.

I remember when I went through my first break up, which seemed like lifetimes ago, I was so bitter and angry. I had so much hate and resentment in my heart because I didn’t get the apology I desperately wanted… In fact, I didn’t want it, I needed it. I needed some type of acknowledgment, some type of break through lightbulb going off in their head moment, any sign of ownership in the hurt that was caused. At the time, I thought an apology would’ve brought me closure. Closure to leave things in the past, accept all the hurt that I went through, and move on with my life. But because I didn’t get that apology when I needed it, I used my deep feelings of hate and resentment to move on.

I ended up getting that apology about a year later. But in that year, I struggled with going through the motions of healthily letting the past be the past because I felt entitled to an apology that never came. In that time, I clung onto “It will give me closure,” for so long. I was over the relationship, but the bitterness and hate still lingered until I got that apology. And after the fact, and many years down the line, I realized that I gave someone so much power over me. It was crazy to think that I literally thought I couldn’t fully be at peace on my own without an apology from someone else.

As I got older though, I started to realize that my mentality for closure in any scenario was all messed up. It didn’t matter if it was closure I needed from a friend, romantic partner, family member, etc. In the event of feeling wronged by another, it wasn’t closure that was driving me. It was embarrassment. It was shame. It was pride. Especially in a situation where I feel disrespected in some way, my emotions are through the roof. It’s not just one emotion, you’re usually feeling so many emotions all at once that it can be hard to sift out every single one. I would be too prideful to dissect my feelings in the past. The most prominent emotion has always been anger. When I’m hurt or sad, I express it by being angry. Since it’s the most dominant emotion, I usually just focus all my energy on why a situation angered me, not really diving into the other emotions I’m possibly feeling.

If I’m being completely honest, this is the first time I’m actually breaking down my train of thought when it comes to needing closer. I was more than aware that how I dealt with certain scenarios in the past were coming from a place of hurt that was never sorted out. But putting words and feelings to the process is actually pretty helpful. When you feel you are owed an apology after a situation, the underlying point is that your feelings were hurt. All the emotions that are felt can all be explained by admitting that your feelings were hurt. But hurt feelings can be disguised into other emotions. For me, the feelings of being moded and embarrassed sets in the more I think and dwell on a situation.

How embarrassing and naïve of you to befriend someone like that.

You were played dirty like an idiot, you look stupid.

They don’t respect you or your feelings enough to apologize. It shows where you stand in their life.

After the embarrassment is felt, the shame comes. The humiliation settles into the crevices of your mind. You’re forced to fill in the gaps for yourself. You start overthinking everything up until that point. Your imagination and hurt feelings start creating narratives that aren’t even provable yet. At first, you start to blame them, but then you start reflecting on yourself.

Was it something I did?

I bet they switched up because….

They started acting different around this time, how long was there an issue?

Where did it go bad?

Then the pride sets in. And it’s the ugliest feeling of them all. It’s the side of you that wants to even the score. It’s the side of you that needs to be more hurtful because your feelings were hurt. It’s the side of you that wants to have the last word and end the conversation once and for all. It’s where self worth and ego meet. Even if you feel like you deserve an apology, and an apology is rightfully owed, your pride might tell you that it is something you deserve, something that is rightfully owed to you.

How dare they do XYZ to me and betray my trust?

How can they be so oblivious to how they mistreated me?

I can never forgive them without an apology.

If from a genuine place, an apology will benefit both parties. It’s good for people to acknowledge when they’re in the wrong and have caused some degree of hurt or pain to another. At the same time, it validates the other party – you were entitled to feel X, Y, and Z because I did X, Y, and Z. It lets them know that the other person is conscious of what transpired, and admits their wrong doing. It means there was some sort of reflection that went on behind the scenes, some sort of deeper thought went into it after the fact, and they were putting themselves in your shoes to some degree. Sometimes an apology is what can unfreeze a cold heart. At the end of the day, we just all want to be understood.

But if that apology is never given, you can’t spend your life in limbo angrily waiting for it. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. A lot of the time, you have to forgive because it’s the only way to free yourself. It can be tough to accept that there was no acknowledgment, there was no acceptance, there was no closure. It may seem ridiculous to forgive someone that does not deserve it. But forgiveness is something you have to do for yourself to avoid that inner turmoil that can occur when you hold onto negative feelings. It’s harder to process hurt feelings when you feel like you need an apology from whoever hurt you. Without them acknowledging your hurt, taking responsibility for their actions, or seeing your side, you may feel like it’s impossible to forgive and find peace on your own. But the power of peace and closure is not in someone else’s hands, it’s in yours. In the moment, it may be hard to see the bigger picture – that you are letting someone else’s decisions dictate your ability to heal.

Many times, getting people to see their part in a situation is close to impossible. What gets my blood boiling is when I know I am owed an apology, but the other party is gaslighting and saying my reality was not valid at the time. What got me in the past, whether that be in friendships, relationships, or arguments, was the fact that I wanted my reality to be validated, I wanted my experience to be known, at the very least, I wanted acknowledgment that I didn’t deserve a lot of the things I went through. But to give another person or people power over you like that is exhausting. Your worth isn’t determined by someone else. Just like your ability to move on and forgive is not determined by someone else either.

Forgiveness without an apology is not an easy thing to do. And there are lots of people out there that have not mastered forgiveness for themselves. And that’s not to knock or diss to anyone who is holding onto a lot of hurt and hate in their heart due to someone else’s wrong doing. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. But allowing someone to fuck with you so deep that a part of you is still bitter is not worth it. At the end of the day, you are holding that negativity inside, you are feeling the resentment, you are taking the L because misery loves company. The hard truth is this: you don’t need an apology. You will live, you’ll move on. And as cliché as it sounds, the only apology you need is the apology to yourself, for allowing someone else’s actions to affect your inner peace.

You can cling onto wanting an apology for so long, but sometimes, an apology doesn’t mean shit. We’ve all heard the stories of people that have been so badly scarred by another, that even if given an apology, forgiveness is so far out of the picture and unfathomable to even do. And honestly, sometimes people are justified in feeling that way. There are scenarios where people do malicious things that are just straight up unforgiveable. There are times where apologies don’t offer any closure at all, and the absence of an apology does absolutely nothing. It is in these moments that some will realize that the deep desire for “closure” by hearing “I’m sorry,” was never in the other person’s court at all. The ball was always in your court.

So what is closure? And why is closure and apologies so closely tied together? Does one not exist without the other? I used to think that I needed certain things to be known, said, or acknowledged to have closure. I wanted my point to be known, I wanted my side to be heard, I wanted to voice my opinions – that to me was closure. And if I didn’t get that opportunity to straight roast someone, say some smart ass shit I thought up after the fact, or have some fire comebacks that make me sound like a boss ass bitch for me to drop the mic and never say another thing to not taint my victory – it wasn’t closure. For me, I had to make an exit like a boss for closure.

Sometimes, you want that apology so bad that you overthink it. You overthink what an acceptable apology is. You play in your head the ideal apology you would like to receive. But often times, if there is an apology given, it’s not as satisfying as the one you conjured up in your head. Because only you know what parts need to be addressed that hurt you so badly. Which is why the power of healing should not be in someone else’s hands. You need to come to terms with the circumstances and how everything played out. You need to find peace in knowing the part they played as well as the part you played. Only you can give yourself that clarity.

Forgiveness without an apology may seem impossible. But it’s the kindness you show to yourself that is the real test. Most of the closure you need will be found within yourself. You don’t need an apology from someone else to find closure. Closure and forgiveness are actions you take to protect yourself and your own inner peace. The ball is always in your court if you want it to be.