A couple weeks ago, I had a heart-changing conversation. It was beautiful, healing and full of love. It was a conversation I never thought would happen, an apology I never thought I’d receive. 

But this isn’t a post about the breakdown – it doesn’t matter who did what or said what. Yes, I deserved an apology. So did they. 

The magic was in our willingness to say sorry.

In our willingness to witness each other’s hurt.

In our willingness to take responsibility and say we wish we had done better.

It’s not often that we are willing (or able) to acknowledge the ways we have hurt others. We don’t have a lot of capacity to sit with that discomfort, nor do many of us have the skills to empathize with the pain we’ve caused someone without sinking into our own shame spiral.

I know I’ve done that myself, far more than once. I know I haven’t always been an easy person to talk to when conflict is a possibility. I grew up knowing how to be tough, how to defend myself. My way with words can be used for good, or evil, and I have had more than one partner comment on my capacity to inflict major harm with a few select phrases. 

Over the past few years, this has become a focus of my personal work. It became clear to me that people were avoiding important conversations with me for fear of my response. I was too tough, too in charge. The child who had to protect herself fiercely had grown up into an untouchable woman.

Not a good life goal.

But I never saw it happening. I hardened, more so as the mother of special needs kids, more so as a queer, polyamorous person who felt deeply misunderstood. I hardened, built walls, thought I was keeping myself safe.

I just ended up alone.

So in this powerful conversation, I apologized. I took responsibility. I said things like “I don’t remember that exactly but I believe you that I did that and hurt you that way.”

I didn’t defend the things that used to be part of my shame story. I didn’t turn things around to blame bad behaviour on others. 

This was only possible because I’ve done my work – unpacked my stories, grieved my losses, owned my shit. There is no growth in denial and defensiveness. If we want change in our lives, we gotta change ourselves first. I had to be willing to crumble, to be vulnerable, to be discarded.

I now want to know my part; I want to know how I caused harm. I want to know my missteps so that I can take true accountability and make honest apologies. 

It’s the only way to repair, to rebuild. 

This person and I, we’ve gone from thinking we may never be friends again to restarting a friendship with a stronger, more loving foundation. A foundation we know is built on truth, vulnerability and deep care for one another.

This is how brave hearts make big apologies and build beautiful relationships.

Parrish Wilson, lies on a grey couch with her head propped up on her arm while looking at the camera.

Parrish Wilson is a writer and writing therapist. She supports her clients to process life and all it’s complexities through the written word. She works with individuals and organizations who wish to use the power of writing to enhance their well-being.