“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou (1928–2014)
THERE are two things I’ve learned about relationships.
The first is that people appreciate you appreciating them. The second is if you don’t appreciate them you do have another chance: through apology.
These two things I’ve learned hinge on the Maya Angelou wisdom; people’s memories can be woefully non-existent, but when it comes to how we as people experience emotion, we’ve got memories like elephants. The latent muscle memory of feelings is so potent that it doesn’t matter how much time goes past; a bad experience is rarely ‘forgotten’ and traumatic experiences are etched deep in the soul.
Feelings are palpable, and if we think we’ll get away with our nonchalant dealing with people we’re sorely mistaken. They won’t forget, just as we don’t forget. We may know that our Bibles tell us to forgive, and we do wrestle with what we feel, but it won’t change how we feel.
This is why apologies are so crucial.
The power in the apology is so cogent that even if we felt abused we’re able to receive God’s healing grace in order to be able to genuinely forgive. But where there’s no apology, even a petty transgression leaves us with a non-trusting attitude toward the person who infringed.
Apology is the craft of relationship maintenance; a skill of wisdom that upholds the command, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
An apology is a way of making good on a promise having blown it. Apology is restitution, it’s understanding, and it’s repentance — all rolled into one. Even if we made someone feel angry by the way we treated them we do have a comeback in us if we can say sorry, prove we understand, can set it right, assure them it won’t happen again, and seek their forgiveness.
It’s incredibly important how we make another person feel in our interactions with them.
A fool has no regard for how they make another person feel, but a wise person takes stock and makes quick amends.
The transgression a person feels,
Either forestalls despair or heals,
Dependent on the whether there’s a sorry,
Either adds to or reduces the worry.
In other words, an apology can heal at the depth of an injury caused by a transgression, but if no apology comes small matters become significant.
If they made you feel bad, don’t give them another chance to make you sad, unless they tried to understand why you’re made, and they tried to make you glad.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.