I was talking to a person a while back about a little run-in they’d had with another person. It was a misunderstanding, as many run-ins are, but in the end, this person’s feelings were hurt.
This person did the healthy thing; they approached the person and in a tactful way said their feelings had been hurt.
Now, the person who did the feeling-hurting was in a position to acknowledge it and own it, or take offense to it. The offender chose to be offended.
“I’m sorry your feelings were hurt,” said the offender.
Do you know anyone like this? It’s hard for some people to own up to anything, let alone apologize to you. These are the same people who can’t seem to say “thank you” very much and in fact, rarely let you help them in the first place.
Pride, I guess?
But this person pressed on. The offender was questioned. Did he mean to offend? Did he mean to hurt the other person’s feelings? Did he think he was in the wrong in any way?
“As I said, I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.”
I suppose it’s part of the makeup of some people. Another term that’s being thrown around these days is “family of origin.” Where did this person come from? How was he or she treated by parents? Was there a broken home situation? Was there abuse?
I grew up knowing a person who rationalized much of his behavior. Whatever happened was always the other person’s fault and many an argument could be had with this person regarding who was at fault. We used to say he had a “book of excuses” for everything that happened and rarely did those excuses involved taking ownership of the situation.
This person’s “family of origin” included a hard-working father who wanted to teach his children good, honest values and the effects of a good day’s work. The mother, on the other hand, had lost her own mother at a young age and was forced to care for her younger siblings. When she had her own children, she was overly protective and also taught her kids that there was always someone to blame. Nothing was ever her kids’ fault.
So, the children of this mother grew up to believe this. There was never a time in their lives when an incident wasn’t someone else’s fault. If the rare instance occurred that was unmistakably caused by the kid, there would be a “they were sick” or “they were tired” thrown into the excuse. This was a mind set that was instilled in these children.
They all grew up and continued this behavior. They blamed their spouses, children, co-workers, bosses for everything that happened.
One day, an older sister spoke up to the rest of them. You see, she had moved far away from the rest and had married a man who decided to lay it on the line. For the first time in her life, this sister saw what her new husband pointed out to her: all her life she had made excuses for her behavior and anything she’d done wrong was never her fault. The day she realized this was the day her life changed.
“It was like getting slapped in the face.”
This sister went on to tell her story and talk about how she had to change her entire way of thinking. She had to start at square one.
But the one thing she said that I thought was wonderful was this: the day she began to take ownership of her faults and actually tell people she was sorry, was the day she became happier and more content. She also noticed that her interactions with people became better. She had more friends. It seemed more folks wanted to be around her.
I learned a lot from listening to this story, and I realized that pointing the finger at oneself from time to time is not only healthy, but very humbling.
I’m thankful for stories like this.