Is an apology ever not in order?

A forum for discussion of Buddhist ethics.
Post Reply
Mr. H
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:07 pm

Is an apology ever not in order?

Post by Mr. H » Sun Feb 16, 2020 11:31 am

Wrestling with an ethical dilemma of sorts; :?:

Some years ago (roughly 10, when I was in my early 20's) I hurt a friend, and lover, by behaving selfishly, cruelly even. Without going into specific details I acted in a way that caused her hurt, and probably a lot of embarrassment.

Needless to say things did not end well between us; and last word I gave was a promise not to contact her again.

But now many years have passed and I feel I owe a proper apology (I did not do so at the time, or if I did it was certainly not coming from a place of deep compassion, and has not served to suffice my soul). I'm not looking for a response, or forgiveness, I just feel it is a matter of human dignity that a sincere apology be offered.

But the last thing I want to do is to make her relive the embarrassment, or open old wounds that had been well and truly forgotten. So I guess my question to you is this; are there times when apologising is not the right thing to do, when it is better to leave the past somewhat unresolved?

It is hard to know whether it would be for her piece of mind, or my own? Probably my own, or maybe both? Or maybe either way it is better to apologise?

Clearly my conscience is still troubled by it, but I would rather have to live and suffer with that than risk causing more harm.

I would like to hear your thoughts before I make a decision.

With love, thank you.

Posts: 981
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 3:10 am

Re: Is an apology ever not in order?

Post by narhwal90 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:25 pm

The general recommendation is to abide by your promise. I ended things with a girlfriend many years ago and I still feel guilty about, but its in poor taste to dig up these old things just to assuage one's own conscience. What if your reappearance is still more hurtful for her? It is inappropriate for your apology to add more hurt. Seems a better idea to own it and use it as a reminder to change your own behavior now so as to not act in a similar manner again.

User avatar
明安 Myoan
Former staff member
Posts: 2492
Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 am

Re: Is an apology ever not in order?

Post by 明安 Myoan » Sun Feb 16, 2020 6:21 pm

Having received such a message myself, even well intentioned (on Christmas no less), I don't personally recommend it. In my case, it brought back bad memories even years later. I got mad all over again. But each situation is unique. There's simply the potential that, no matter your motivation, it may appear self-serving.

For mutual bad endings, a prayer for their well-being is helpful and turning the memories and regrets over to the Four Opponent Powers.

Good luck!
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 10993
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Is an apology ever not in order?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:20 pm

Don’t apologize for your own sake. Apologizing to ‘clean the slate’ often backfires. On the other hand, if it’d be beneficial to other party, that’s the best reason to do it.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

User avatar
Posts: 1181
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2009 9:24 pm
Location: Delaware

Re: Is an apology ever not in order?

Post by justsit » Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:45 pm

it is better to leave the past somewhat unresolved?
It may be unresolved for you, but you have no way of knowing if it's unresolved for her. It sounds as though your concern is for your own issues, not hers.

Having been in a very similar situation, I approached the other party after more than 10 years to offer an apology, because I knew I had acted badly. My action was taken to assuage my guilt; the other person was no longer interested in the past, and it merely stirred up old crap. Should have left it alone.

IMO - Offer many aspirations that the person may be happy, peaceful, and free from suffering. Otherwise, refrain.
Hope it works out well for everyone involved.

Mr. H
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:07 pm

Re: Is an apology ever not in order?

Post by Mr. H » Sat Mar 14, 2020 4:44 am

Excellent answers, thank you all kindly :heart:

User avatar
Global Moderator
Posts: 8315
Joined: Mon Oct 29, 2012 8:25 am
Location: Europe

Re: Is an apology ever not in order?

Post by Ayu » Sat Mar 14, 2020 10:01 am

Due to lack of time I haven't thoroughly read the former posts. Sorry. Here are just some basic short thoughts about regret and apologies.
- In buddhist view it is an internal affair. Apologies have to come from a free heart after an insight. Therefore it's not worth to expect an apology from another person. We cannot look into them and hence we cannot judge.
- But a trial for a conversation in a peaceful atmosphere could be fruitful. Before starting that, one has to take care if it's welcome.
- If a deed was right in dharmic view, one should never regret it or apologize for it.
For the benefit and ease of all sentient beings. :heart:

Post Reply

Return to “Ethical Conduct”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 15 guests