(originally published January, 2010)
Lately, I’ve been asked quite often by callers if it is "okay" to apologize to someone for a wrongdoing even years after the offense. I can understand why that question might be asked. It can feel a bit embarrassing to have to face someone and face up to what you've done. It is worrisome that they might not be gracious about your apology. It is possible that they might "lay into you." It may be that they say "You caused me so much grief and pain that I can’t forgive you." They might not even be willing to talk to you. Or, they might say, with tears, "Thank you. That means a lot to me."
It IS a big risk to take. But the most valued things in life do come with a big risk attached. That's part of what gives them value.
You must remember, however, whatever their
response might be, you are doing the apology not to wipe the slate clean (damage is damage, and some never goes away), but because true repentance requires you do what it takes to repair the damage. That includes the sincere...sincere
...apology. None of that "if you were hurt, then I’m sorry" nonsense. That is pure annoyance!
So, if you truly have remorse (and are not just trying to manipulate someone into a situation which benefits you), then apologize...anytime
...and tolerate their first and maybe second unpleasant reaction.
Seeds take time to germinate, and coping with an apology means the whole thing is brought up again in their minds. Be patient and understanding. While they may never forgive you, know that you still did the right thing.