Posting a picture/sending a generic message saying “if I ever hurt you, please forgive me” is an absolute insult to anyone you have genuinely hurt and is deserving of an apology from you. If you are one of the miraculous humans who has read one of those en masse, impersonal messages and felt your heart swell with forgiveness – I salute you.
The word “sorry” is, in and of itself, meaningless. What makes an apology either a source of healing or an added insult to injury is the sincerity in which you apologised.
A prerequisite for seeking forgiveness is to self-reflect and take responsibility for your actions (or the lack thereof in some cases). Seeking forgiveness requires uncomfortable conversations. With yourself and the person/people you are seeking forgiveness from. It forces us to take off our rose-tinted glasses when looking at ourselves and our actions. It demands that we set aside ego and pride in favour of humility. It pushes us to the core of our vulnerability.
When a child does something wrong and immediately says “sorry” – we often ask them what exactly they are sorry for. This is not to humiliate the child; nor is this to punish the child further. We do this to help our children grow and to demonstrate to them the link between responsibility and sincerity. How sincere can an apology be if the person apologising doesn’t even know exactly what they are apologising for? When you are unwell and you go to see your doctor; you don’t sit in the doctor’s office and say “I’m ill” and then expect that doctor to magically know what illness you are suffering with and prescribe the correct medicine instantly. You explain your symptoms in as much detail as you can, you listen attentively to the doctor and answer all questions respectfully and honestly. You are patient when the doctor pods and pokes you, despite it being uncomfortable and painful, knowing that it is all part of the healing process. We owe the people we have wronged the same respect.
Don’t get me wrong; I am aware how difficult these conversations can be. And I am also aware that what stops us from doing this is fear; fear that they don’t give us the forgiveness that we sought from them. Fear that the guilt doesn’t dissipate. Fear that we aren’t worthy of forgiveness. By no means am I telling you that this is easy. But what I am telling you, is that is sincere. When we stand in front of the people we have wronged, hold our hands up to our mistake and ask someone to find it in their hearts to forgive us knowing that they can use this moment to retaliate (perhaps deservingly so?) – that is sincerity. We cannot force anyone to forgive us, but the least we can do is ask sincerely.
Seeking forgiveness should not just be an empty ritual wherein you attempt to absolve yourself of guilt. Seeking forgiveness, by its very definition, is more about the person/people you have wronged than it is about you and your guilty conscience. Seeking forgiveness is less about saying sorry and more about a commitment to do better; a commitment to better the situation/relationship as well as a commitment to better oneself.
Amal is a covert writer and an overt reader. She graduated in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic and is currently working at the University of Manchester. She is often discussing all the things that make people feel uncomfortable.