The other day I asked my daughter to do me the favor of transferring the clothes from the washer to the dryer. No big deal. She agreed to do so. However, when I arrived home from work, I found she had not completed this task. My daughter is eighteen years old, mind you, and fully capable of putting clothes in the dryer. She is also eighteen and has her driver's license, a car, and a newfound social life. She works part time, goes to school, and still finds time for a social life. So in my mind, I ask myself why can she not find a few minutes in her day to help me with chores around the house. After all, some of this laundry belongs to her as well. As my mother told me growing up, "One hand washes the other." So what gives?
I was in the middle of placing the laundry in the dryer, feeling frustrated, when she appeared behind me. I could hear the light catch of her breath as she realized she had forgotten to do what I asked. I used some of my motherly sarcasm and thanked her for not helping, to which she replied, "I'm sorry, mommy."
I smiled back at her and asked rhetorically, "Sorry doesn't put the laundry in the dryer, does it?"
What a way to beat the kid when she was already feeling down, huh? I'm such a horrible mother. Go ahead. Judge me.
It is known that adolescents at this age are developmentally in the "all about me" phase. The world revolves around their needs and wants, and most of all, around their identity. It is normal for my daughter to be consumed with her life and not necessarily focusing on me, my needs, the house, or any other responsibilities that may pull her away from her primary focus. I understand this and I accept this. On the other hand, I do want my daughter to learn how to take other people into account. I want to train her up to be mindful of other people's feelings, not with the intention of her being a martyr, but for the simple fact that I want her to be a considerate human being.
I also want to teach my daughter an important life lesson. We can't go through life offending people and relying on "I'm sorry" as a get out of jail free card. There are some things that an apology cannot fix. Instead, slow down, and take a moment to stop and think about your next move. Moment to moment, we run from one task to another, all the while balancing fifty other things in our heads, and we may fail to take into consideration the people around us. It is our responsibility to slow down. If you find yourself saying "I'm sorry" for the same offense over and over again, it is your job to sit down and reflect on how you are going to stop committing the same offense. Otherwise, your apology carries no weight and people will begin to resent you when you do try to apologize.
Using the example of my daughter and the laundry ordeal, the truth is, I forgave my daughter. It was not such a big deal to me and I am not going to hold resentment towards my child because she has a life. I am grateful that my daughter is a normal eighteen year old and if forgetting to put the laundry in the dryer is the worst of my problems, well hell, I'll take it. As for the apology, our interaction did open the floor to discussion and she appeared genuinely receptive to what I had to say and what I was trying to teach her-sarcasm aside. I also used this opportunity to explain to her that she should also pay attention to people who chronically apologize to her. It is gracious to accept someone's apology, however just because someone apologizes does not mean we have to automatically forgive them. That is our right, and it is in our power, to choose whether we forgive and forget, or whether we simply accept and let go.
We are going to make mistakes. We may not go out of our way to hurt the next person but it will happen. Recognizing our wrongs is part of growing up and maturing as human beings. I do want to point out, if you have genuinely apologized to someone and you are actively working on yourself-that should be enough. If the other person continues to beat you up for something you are repairing, remember, you have no control over that individual or the choices he or she is making. You only have control over your actions. The ball will be in your court when it comes to managing that relationship. If it becomes too toxic, you may have to prune some leaves off that tree.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Forgiveness and apologies are not as cut and dry as we would like to believe. I'm curious to hear what you have to say about this. Comment below, share and discuss!