When we consider the fact that actually being sorry and then, sincerely apologizing, is one of the twelve steps toward healing through the Twelve Steps Programs, we begin to understand how difficult it is to apologize and how damaging that it is when we don’t apologize. Today, I have been trying to unravel some of the issues that many of us have with apologizing.
First of all, apologizing becomes difficult because we don’t know exactly where to point the finger toward who we owe our apologies and to whom we believe owes us an apology. All too often, Mom becomes the scapegoat for everyone’s problems, and when accused, she shamefully tucks her head and accepts the blame:
Women live lives of continual apology. They are born and raised to take the blame for other people’s behavior. If they are treated without respect, they tell themselves that they have failed to earn respect. If their husbands do not fancy them, it is because they are unattractive. – Germaine Greer
The problem with blaming Mom, however, is that she herself didn’t start with a level playing field. When we look at the problems in our lives and blame Mom for everything that has gone wrong, we are essentially saying that Mom should have done better. We are assuming that Mom started with a full deck of cards and that she simply didn’t play her hand very well, and because of her poor playing, her children suffered the fallout.
When we scrutinize Mom’s life a little more carefully, however, we begin to see that Mom herself didn’t have a perfect childhood either. Every mother is wounded to some extent by her own parents, and the damages extend backward and forward generation after generation. When young women become mothers, they are expected to win a game of five-card stud, but they only have three cards in their hand. It is an impossible situation, and anyway, what about Dad? Was Dad perfect?
Even though most adult children realize that their dads were not perfect, it is their mothers that they usually hold responsible. How could that be rational? How could mothers deserve all of the blame, and how can Dad exit the scrap unscathed?
The reality is that there is never enough love to create the perfect child. There simply isn’t.
“The truth is, when our mothers held us, rocked us, stroked our heads -none of us ever got enough of that. We all yearn in some way to return to those days when we were completely taken care of – unconditional love, unconditional attention. Most of us didn’t get enough.”
― Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
In my own life, I can look backward and see that I was damaged during childhood, and I can look forward and see that as a mother, I made mistakes, too. By the same token, I can understand how my own mother had been damaged by her own childhood. Exactly who do I blame? Do I blame my mom for not being perfect or do I blame my mom’s mom for dying when my mom was a child?
The blame game is like a horrible car wreck on a freeway that is filled with cars. Somewhere way up the line, someone hit someone else, and the pileup begins. But in life, the situation is even more confusing. We cannot even see the car that started the pileup. If the truth is known, that began with Adam and Eve.
To make matters even more complicated, we haven’t been the perfect adult children either. While I would like for someone to apologize to me for all of the things that could have been better for me growing up, I do not apologize for my own failings either, and the web of family issues becomes more and more tangled. How can anyone pull out of a tornado like this and point their finger accurately on the one person that caused all the problems and to the people who are owed an apology? The answer is: They can’t.
The result is that wounded adult children are weak and fragile and wounded, and they don’t apologize to the people who hurt them–even though they themselves offended back. In turn, they also make mistakes with their own children, and their own adult children hurt them back.
Is your head spinning? It should be. So exactly who should apologize to whom, and will anyone even accept the apologies, once they are offered?
I anguish about my family’s problems every day, and I know that there are some in my family who prefer to shut down and to refuse to feel anything at all about any of the family’s issues. It is easier for those people to simply deny that the problems exist or that they have contributed to the problems in any way. It is easier for them to just blame Mom.
So more and more people become alcoholics and addicts, or they become workaholics or sexaholics. They go to Gambler’s Annonymous or Overeater’s Annonymous or Codependents’ Meetings. We go to our meetings, and we pledge to work the Twelves Steps, but we don’t–not really. We don’t because we can’t fully apologize.
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a rider, the message was lost.
For want of a message, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a nail. – Unknown
If anyone has figured out the apologizing dilemma, I’d like to know the answer.
©Jacki Kellum August 1, 2016