Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: Apologies for long-ago wrongs: good or bad idea?

 

Dear Carolyn: A friend and I were discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of apologizing to someone for long-ago wrongs — namely significant others.

I argue it’s a bad idea. If I got an apology from a certain jerky ex, I’d think it was pretty arrogant of him to think I’m still thinking about him and he only wants his conscience absolved.

My friend argues that some might be happy or feel more closure, and that it’s good to hear it and it might not always be a wound that reopens.

Forgive vs. Not Forgive

Sure, apologies can be selfish —- all about conscience-clearing — but they don’t have to be. They can also be about attempting to right a wrong, or to assure you that you weren’t undesirable or at fault or a rube for caring.

Sometimes the passage of time brings maturity to an ex and even an unwelcome apology can be made and received graciously.

To me the biggest risk of an apology for long-ago wrongdoing is redundancy. A lot of people don’t need apologies for things they got over years ago.

For those considering making such an apology, all I can advise is to weigh the potential costs and benefits. Many people do urgently want to be left alone, just as some want to hear they weren’t wrong or stupid or unworthy of love, so there’s no sure way to get it right. You can only take your best guess at which, in the eyes of the other person, would be seen as the kindest thing.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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