Someone I know well told me this the other day:
“I’ve learned to accept the apologies I don’t get.”
I thought this was profound.
How often have you been in a situation where you feel someone has offended you and you let it eat you up inside?
Maybe you’re more emotionally mature than I am, but historically this has happened to me dozens of times.
I’ll find myself obsessing over something trivial for days, weeks, or in a few cases, years. Stewing over Birthdays, parties, and weddings I wasn’t invited to. Giving the silent treatment to people over offhand comments or failed jokes. Letting myself burn up with rage over someone who didn’t yield right of way (or, more often, someone who yielded when they should not have).
Feel the Anger, and Let It Roll Off
I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve seen a psychologist for depression. One of the things he told me was that it is normal to feel anger (or sadness, or other emotions). The key is that those emotions should be felt, fully, wholeheartedly, but briefly.
A baby feels its anger, and lets you know about it. It doesn’t hold back. But it also forgets its anger as soon as the situation changes.
After the initial surge of anger, move on! It doesn’t serve you to feel anger. If you can use that anger as a springboard to push you to positive action, great! But if you are letting that anger cloud your mood, your interactions with other people, and even letting it determine your friendships, it’s no longer useful.
Put it aside, and accept that apology, even if you didn’t get one.
You Are 100% Responsible for Your Life
I’m busy re-reading The Success Principles. If you haven’t read it, pick it up now. Seriously.
Principle #1 is that you are fully responsible for everything that happens to you. There are two things that act in concert to affect outcomes: the event, plus your reaction. The event is not always under your full control. But your reaction is.
Your thoughts are 100% controllable by you. Sometimes it takes work to control those thoughts. Some may need to practice with meditation, or learn Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques, but your thoughts are ultimately your own.
Don’t Take It Personally
In The Four Agreements, the second rule for finding personal freedom is: Don’t Take It Personally.
When someone has wronged you, it wasn’t your fault. It was their fault. It was something going on in their mind that, ultimately, is their responsibility. Even if, as the author of The Four Agreements argues, someone comes up and shoots you in the head, it’s not personal.
It’s hard to remember this in the moment. Someone is chewing you out, someone is cutting you off in traffic, someone is slow responding to your texts, someone has failed to uphold their end of a bargain: it’s not personal. Whatever the cause, even if you did something to trigger their reaction, it’s still not personal. So don’t take it personally, and let it roll off.
Entirely coincidentally, Seth Godin has written recently on The Problem With Holding a Grudge. Check it out!
Don’t let anger run your life. Don’t feel bitter towards people forever. Take control of your reactions, don’t take it personally, accept the apologies you never received, and move on.