This perception is so common that it’s actually at the heart of much of the world’s interpersonal strife. And it gets applied in a very self-serving manor. So if it’s we who are accidentally over-committed ourselves, and we genuinely feel bad, then when we offer a genuine apology, we tend to expect it to be taken sincerely.
But we’re all some kind of personality type. And if we’re the type that likes to help, it’s easy to get caught accidentally over-committing throughout our lives. This is not us failing to be sincere about our apologies when we come up short. It’s simply the other side of the coin that matches someone who is a dedicated helper.
The truth is, we do generally feel badly about how things may have resulted for the offended party, but it’s not like that’s what anyone was aiming for. It’s a by-product of a our personality, not something aimed at anyone. So daydreamers are creative, but due to that they’ll often be late for things because they’re daydreaming.
They aren’t failing us if they sincerely feel badly when they’ve kept us waiting. But they also don’t owe it to us to change their entire personality just to cater to our desires, rules, promises or beliefs about what defines good behaviour. Forcing a daydreamer to be on time may also risk some very valuable and important aspects of their creative process.
If we made Einstein have a tidy office he may very well not become Einstein. (His was famously super messy.) And the same goes for every personality type. Some are good at schedules and organizing but bad at taking direction from others. Others are terrible at leading but are good being a confidante. Some are good confidantes but they’re terrible in group settings.
Every coin has two sides, so we all need to stop asking other people to be one-sided coins just because that’s what we want. If we stop and really think about it a moment, we don’t want to be held to that standard either, because it’s absolutely impossible. If we’re messier than our roommate, we can’t suddenly adopt their standards any more than we can suddenly drive as well as them, or feel comfortable singing in public because they can, nor would we suddenly lose our fear of heights just because they don’t have that fear.
We each are ourselves. We can change to a degree, but only in our own time through our own sense of things. So if your lover hits you then yes, they are capable of changing but that doesn’t mean they’ll figure out how. So their apologies are sincere but you simply have to accept who they are and you might have to end that relationship if they’re not going to make that change immediately. But even then, that’s still not them failing you, that’s them being raised to have counter-productive life strategies. Their behaviour might be abhorrent, but underneath that is some innocent who learned that behaviour by accident.
Just like we can’t change ourselves for the better instantly, just by knowing what “better” is, neither can they. So we need to learn to stop asking for the impossible. We need to accept who we’re with, whether they’re late, or messy, or horny or violent –and then we need to act accordingly. Don’t stay in unhealthy situations. But at the same time, don’t equate apologies with commitments to change because those are two different things. Even most commitments to change are little more than sincerely well-intentioned efforts to be someone we ultimately are not.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.