I’ve used this exercise in workshops with astonishingly powerful results. Men and women breaking down and sobbing, lives changing, old wounds healing on the spot.
I’ve seen relationships fall apart or rise anew – all based on how apology is used.
Apology is powerful, no doubt. Some of our mistakes need to be righted. And that can be a delicate process.
I have worked with couples who use apology in ways that ultimately sabotage their love – as a method of shaming and blaming and righteous punishment. “Admit what you did, grovel for forgiveness, and promise to never do it again!”
This approach divides, and generates the seeds of future resentment. When men apologize as a confession of sin, women may forgive superficially, but still hold on to their fear and suspicion. Talk is cheap.
But there’s a different approach that doesn’t boomerang.
I’ve been told by Jewish friends that the Hebrew translation of “sin” is an archery metaphor: “missing the mark”. Love that image!
In this spirit, apology is used as a way of coming together in agreement, of saying “this is the target”.
This approach unites. There is relief, and the possibility of love and safety, when we know what our target is. In this common cause, forgiveness naturally arises, and love blossoms.
When you miss the mark, and your behavior causes questions, can you navigate that confusion?
Can you man up, admit fully what you thought and felt and DID? And can you own that without collapsing into self-pity or inflating into egoic righteousness?
Can you find common agreement, get back together on the same page, redefine the target?
Can you rejoin the team, and work together as allies (not enemies), improving each other’s game, honing your skills, hitting the target more and more often?
THAT’S what successful couples do. THAT’S an approach that serves the relationship, and is sustainable over a lifetime of all-too-human, less-than-perfect actions.
(Brought to my attention by Francesca Gentille.)