when is it time to apologize?

You could have knocked me over with a feather. An old friend, who I was sure I’d never see again, wandered through my door last week to apologize. A couple of years ago we had a misunderstanding; he said some things that came out rather harshly and in the same breath made it clear that our friendship was over. Fin. There would be no more contact. Period. I didn’t fully understand, but I tried to see it from his perspective since he honestly didn’t give me much choice. So, I respected his wishes and somewhat wistfully let our friendship go. And I’ve thought of him from time to time and wondered what really happened there, but knowing I would probably never get any sort of real closure, I pushed it from my mind. I told myself that everyone’s situations are unique, and that people say and do things they need to do for themselves, for whatever reason, even if sometimes those reasons don’t make much sense to other people. Everyone is different. And at the end of the day, we’re all doing the best we can.

I’ve had several friends (some closer than others) disappear over the years, and as a bleeding heart who puts a lot of stock in personal relationships, I’ve struggled with those friendships ending– really struggled at times, honestly. With two girl friends in particular, the loss of each of them was painful enough, but the lack of any sort of explanation served as the bitter aftertaste left behind. I have tried intermittently over the years to reach out and let them know our friendship was important to me, and that I wish I knew what happened… and each time I’ve been met with silence, or worse, the words no one wants to hear: “My life is better without you.” Ouch. What do you do with that? Absorb it. Carry it with you for awhile. Roll it around in your heart and attempt to make sense of it. But eventually you have to decide to let go because clinging to situations we don’t understand–particularly ones that hurt us–eventually holds us back.  At a point, we have to let go of how we thought things should be and live with how things are instead.

Hard truth: sometimes the apology never comes. We don’t always enjoy the luxury of understanding why things happen the way they do, and we don’t always get a well-deserved explanation or the closure we needed. Sometimes things just don’t happen that way. But sometimes, when you least expect it, they do.

And two years later, my friend apologized. And I really appreciate that he did. Things make a lot more sense now.

It’s never too late. You never know how much your words or actions might have affected someone unless you ask them. Is there anyone you need to set the record straight with? Is anyone out there wondering what happened to you? Go ahead and reach out. It may not change anything– or it might change everything.

10 thoughts on “when is it time to apologize?

    1. I think you have to feel it out in each situation… But I will say this: sometimes it becomes much harder to keep trying with no response- in those situations, you have to acknowledge you did everything YOU could do, and in order to move on and heal, the only thing left to do is decide to let go.

    2. You have to feel it out… but when it causes more pain and emotional distress to keep trying, it’s time to love yourself enough to let go and allow yourself to move on.

  1. You hit this one spot on. There are so many people in my life that have disappeared as different events happened in my life, without any explanation and no response when I’ve reached out. Sometimes you have to let it go but it certainly must feel like a gift when someone walks back in through a door you thought was permanently shut. It should never be too late to reconnect. Good thoughts, Anne.

    1. It’s rare. I have to say I was shocked because I’ve learned over the last several years that some people are NEVER coming back. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. But sometimes other people surprise you. It’s a nice reminder to make sure WE aren’t being that person to anyone else- the one who disappeared or said something unkind and never looked back. It’s up to us to make sure our actions are congruent with who we are as people, and that should be someone we are proud to be.

  2. Hi Kate,

    I am a friend of your dear Mother, and last night in our “Ladies Book Club” we engaged in deep conversation including this very subject. As a result, she shared your blog, “when is it time to apologize?” which was very appropo for our evening’s discussion.

    Well Stated! You’re a fine writer with which I could relate both in subject and prose, as well as a fellow artiiist and writer myself. I signed up to read more of your blog’s. Thank you!


    1. Thank you Sheila! I’m so happy you found some value in it, and I look forward to your feedback on future topics as well! Thanks for reading!

  3. Hi Kate, this post was very apropos for the discussion we shared Wednesday night in the book club I share with your Mother, Susan. Your insight is spot on as I have experienced these situations from both sides. It is very frustrating to try and share a live conversation with someone who has difficulty with honest, open communications. Especially today, people seem to hide behind technology, an easy thing to do.

    However I have learned that sometimes we just need to put friendships on a shelf. Sometimes they just cause hurt and we are glad they are packed away; sometimes we put them in an airtight compartment, permanently sealed. The trick is to let go of the pain. Yet sometimes they surprise us later, and I have had people call me out of the blue when I hadn’t spoken with them in years; or I was the one who tracked them down. One friend in particular (Mary), I couldn’t remember WHY nor HOW she hurt me and I allowed more than 30 years to go by before I had the guts to call her on the phone. She was so excited to hear from me and we got together with a few other friends from our college days. I arranged this reunion that separated years between all four of us. One of the first things Mary did was apologize to me in front of the others, and she reminded us of what she had done which had caused me to feel hurt by all of them and stop all communications. I didn’t know all these years that my pulling away caused the others to stop seeing each other too. The hurt had led me to make an inaccurate assumption which made me feel badly for all these years for nothing! The important thing is that I first took a step several years back, with one of them and that’s when I found out she had also lost touch with the other two and they also “broke up.”. After a couple of years of rekindling that first friendship from our fab four, I said, let’s call the others (including Mary). She wasn’t comfortable so I did and invited them all over and we are all sooooooooooooo happy to be back in each others’ lives. It’s as if we never lost touch. The funny thing is that I am still the conduit between the four of us. If I don’t call and make the connections, it is rare to see each other; however I don’t mind. I am not going to let them back out of my life again. I missed them for 30+ years and am so happy they are all now back in my life.

    There are others that I surmise this will not happen and some I don’t care. However, when a friendship is real, it could survive any storm; no matter how long it takes to find each others’ islands where we have been washed ashore; still holding onto memories in our hearts. And the ones who seem not to have much heart, they could stay on a different shore. Life is too short to be hurt by bad memories, when we have people around us who want to share and build new ones going forward.

    Thank you for an insightful blog!

    1. I agree wholeheartedly, and despite how difficult losing a friend can be, it’s so helpful to hear stories like this. It reminds us that we aren’t alone, and aren’t the only ones who have gone through it. It somehow validates that maybe it’s not that we were a “bad friend” or defective as a person… and yes, we are all flawed, but we shouldn’t punish or second guess ourselves over it for years when sometimes friendships aren’t meant to work out- particularly if both parties aren’t invested in the relationship. Thanks for your comments. One of the reasons I started this blog is that I believe we are all connected, sometimes through the gift of common experience, and it helps to read about it, think about it, and talk about it with people who have been there too.

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