Friday, August 24, 2012

Processing an apology

About two years ago, maybe a little longer, I got a message on facebook. It was from a person I didn't know, with no profile picture and no friends. The name on the account was Brielle... The message was incredibly nasty and mean. She referenced BJ and circumstances surrounding his life. BJ figured out who sent it, and sent her a text that night. His text just said, "Brielle is a very meanspirited person. She is also misinformed. Next time get more to the story before you go off on someone like that."

He didn't hear back for a year or more. She eventually sent him a text and apologized. She told him where she got her information and that she didn't mean to cause harm. BJ and I both thought, "that was that".

Yesterday, I got another message. This one from her real account. It was short and simple. She said she apologized to (BJ), but the real person she needed to apologize to was me. She said she thought about it often and wished she had never done that.

I felt happy.
I've watched BJ be isolated from friends and family because of the stories that some people have told, and I feel sad for him. She'd already apologized to him though, which mattered to me a lot more than apologizing to me. Watching people hurt him has hurt me, so I very much appreciate the apology for that reason.

I felt angry.
Talking to friends, they helped me figure out that her apology reminded me of the hurt she'd caused. Her apology reminded me of all the messages and phone calls I got around that same time. Former members of my ward, people I didn't know and had never talked to, and they all knew what I needed to do. Hate-filled messages based on HUGE misinformation.

I felt confused.

I was chatting online with my friend David about it. What he said was so perfect, I'm just going to quote him.
"When a message that hateful is received, even if you know it’s not justified, you have to gird up, form a defense, position your view of yourself in such a way as to be able to look over your shoulder and discount it. It requires diligence, effort. When people take back their harsh words, you’re left with a gap between the defense you formed and the tentative embrace being offered. And because the fear initially felt in the face of such hatred was genuine, there’s almost nothing to do but fill that gap with diffidence, wariness."
For years, I have been braced against the hateful messages that have come my way. With this one person's apology, I didn't have anything to brace against. I felt disoriented. I also didn't know what to do. I have never met this woman. Other than things BJ has told me, I know nothing about her. An apology makes me feel like I owe her something...

So, what now?

Since then, I sat down and talked to her for a long time. She apologized again. She also said it was good to see BJ doing things he loved, and she was glad he had someone to share the things he loves with. She turns out to be the kind of person I love talking to: no filter, she talks about whatever pops into her head, she is comfortable in her own skin, funny. She also happens to love the outdoors, camping, and mountains.

I may never talk to her again... It's just nice to know how things can go. Just because someone is judgmental, or mean, doesn't mean they will stay that way... I didn't worry about her in the two years between emails. I didn't think about what she said much. I just moved on, and when she was ready, and she felt like saying something, she did.


  1. Now this is cool. :o) I'm glad she sincerely apologized. A lot of people do stupid and/or mean things and never develop the courage to own up and apologize for them. Hopefully the encounter(s) left both sides better than before. :o) Thanks a bunch for sharing this!

    1. It was really cool. And took a TON of guts.

  2. Apologies and forgiveness bring alot of healing to others. I agree with Smorg, many people do stupid and/or mean things and never own up or apologize for them. I have done some stupid things and it has taken me awhile to apologize, but I have. The problem has been, the people/person I hurt and apologized to doesn't seem to forgive me. I have also been deeply hurt by two people who will not apologize and so the hurt keeps hurting and the healing can't heal completely. I am constantly reminded, in different ways, of these two people hurting me and my family . I believe no one can be forced to apologize to someone, however, if they are aware that another person(s) is hurting, because of their actions/behaviors, I would hope they would make an effort to change things for the better. Then everyone involved can have peace. It takes courage....alot of courage...I have peace in knowing that I made the effort to apologize for my actions and behaviors in a very difficult situation, I hope to see the day when the same is done for me. My greatest hope is to see both sides better than they were before ( as smorg said). That would be a wonderful gift for all involved.

  3. Ginger -
    I understand how seductive an idea it is, that healing can't happen unless the other person asks for forgiveness. It isn't true, and if you are waiting on them to heal you, you will wait far longer than it would take to move on, and figure out what you need for yourself.

    I know this probably sounds harsh at first blush. I hope you will read my story, you can find it on the Rape post.

    I never saw my rapist again after the day he raped me, I never even knew his last name. I doubt he even remembers me or thinks of me in any way. My father has never acknowledged he molested me, and he actively and aggressively tries to attack me, even after all these years. Not only do I doubt that he will ever acknowledge what happened, but I am pretty sure that I won't have heard the last attack from him until he is dead.

    That doesn't mean that their actions should have ANY power over me. I REFUSE to let them set my timeline for living in a happy marriage, for helping other victims of abuse, for becoming the kind of person I have always wanted to be.

    My father stole 6+ years of my life. My rapist stole my self respect, made me a pregnant teenager, tore up my vagina which made my not only miscarry his child, and nine others. That is all the get. They stole my body, used it as they wanted, and then walked away from responsibility. That is on them. They will answer to God for their choices. I don't need to judge them. It isn't my job. I don't want it. Honestly, I don't want an apology. I would never be able to give them absolution, and I would never put myself in the emotionally vulnerable position by listening to them in a conversation.

    I think Jen's situation is unique because the hurtful email wasn't from someone who knew her, so getting to know each other (I am assuming that she was important to JB's life in some way) and so there was hope that it would be a good thing because she was making the gesture and was trying to build a connection based on something besides just her guilt.

    I am on my phone, so I can't cut and paste comments, but if you go to the Rape post, I shared some thoughts a Stake President shared with me, that I go back and remind myself what my job is, and what it is NOT!

    Ginger, I truly wish for you to have the chance for a meaningful recovery. Feel free to check out my blog and send me an email, if there is anything I can do to help!