If one is due, always begin with an apology.
I believe an apology should be specific, made directly to the person offended or otherwise wounded, include request for forgiveness (so that offender and offended might have the opportunity to be free of bondage to the incident), and involve acts and declarations of repentance – turning from the unhealthy attitudes and behaviours by learning healthy ones; turning toward and acting from the healthy.
Though I know I have neglected and refused to apologise on occasion, I endeavor to do so as soon as I am aware of the need. Sometimes this apology is in person (preferable), in writing, or by phone. Sometimes this has taken some years to reach, where possible, all concerned. Becoming aware of my offences to others develops out of conversations where the offense is pointed out (hopefully with grace; in acknowledgement of the other’s and my equal value), or from my own inward awakening to it.
I am not required to apologise, though, because another declares it to be necessary. Sometimes another would have me take responsibility for their own offense, giving away their own identity, and value in the process.
My apology is to every person (and there may be more women than men) for ever presuming you were idolizing, or worshiping, or finding your identity, value or purpose in another human. Especially when this was an assumption made in response to your loss of that person. Most probably – but not necessarily – a parent, child or partner. This is not a generic apology; I can recall occasions when I think I have done this inadvertently. This is specific but public, and therefore made within the boundaries I believe are important in a public arena. I ask for your forgiveness?
My affirmation is of the times when, in private conversation and counsel, this giving of your own identity, value, and purpose to another has become evident as a piece in the puzzle you are seeking to complete about yourself…and I have had the privilege to lead you into a new journey, one of being authentically you. Part of being an authentic me/you, in relationship with authentic others, is to be immersed in the difficult places on our journey of life and growth as well as the pleasant places – even gently helping to bring some of the uncomfortable or painful into the light.
I seek out authentic and empathic others to join me in piecing together my puzzle, which is my life journey. I find such joy and intimacy with these others when we welcome each into the other’s journey, but do not give it to another to be responsible for.
My appeal stems from two places. Personal experience of others’ attempts to “comfort” and confront me with suggestions of not having my own identity – apparently evidenced by my loss, and in disregard or ignorance of whether how I have lived my life to that point provides evidence to the contrary – and the further loss of community inflicted as a result.
Though I have thought about this a lot lately, my prompt to write now comes from watching Sebastian Junger on TED recently. He has theorised, based on research and personal experience, that extended PTSD and other associated responses in retuned service men and women may be more the result of not having a community (tribe) to return to, than the actual trauma alone. But this places the responsibility on the building of “tribe” or belonging on the tribe, not the individual. I could wax lyrical (or otherwise) on how important I believe a sense of belonging and being in, but not alongside, community is for all, but that is a subject all its own. So, I appeal to us all to consider whether our responses to another’s experience draws them in, or casts them out; validates their existence, or discounts it; stems from intimate knowledge of them as a person, or springs from assumption; is a cliché (or might be received as such), or stems from empathy…
And for my Christian friends in particular, grief in response to the loss, illness or disability of a loved one, or the dreams connected with that loved one, is not an indication of idolizing the person. It is the soul’s response to major loss of relationship, whether that loss is by death, separation, illness, abuse, betrayal. Loss of relationship can also mean change in relationship, which brings with it a loss of what was.
Having recognised God as creator and the designer of each of us, we acknowledge that being created in His image, people of inheritance, we find our identity in being His children. We were designed to live according to our design. Part of our design, was that it was not good to be alone. I do not believe that this statement by our Designer was about marriage alone, but definitely about intimate relationship; sharing of life; interdependence; and, yes, each one’s dependence on the Designer. My identity is in my designer, redeemer and restorer, but part of His design of me was for community and relationship – with Him and other humans, not one or the other.
Telling someone who is suffering a great loss that their identity has to be in Christ is not a comfort, because it is an incomplete statement. It also disqualifies every relationship that person has ever had, including the one they have with you. So, in their loss of relationship (which is often the loss of many and not just one), the one grieving has been dismissed as incomplete because they sense the loss of something they were designed for, and something you most likely still have in some form.
Again I ask, do our responses draw someone in or cast them out?