Stubbornness has always been one of my predominate character faults (I have many).
As a child, and well into my high school years, this manifested itself in a couple ways.
First, I refused to apologize for anything, partly because I thought I could do no wrong, and I just didn’t get why apologies were necessary. I gave some insincere apologies at the behest of my parents; it was a rare occasion when I apologized of my own volition.
Even in the scant instances when I recognized I was in the wrong, I could not bring myself to actually ask for forgiveness or admit I was wrong. I’d try to make up my evildoing in other ways, but never was it by verbalizing an apology.
Second, I was obstinate about my ideas and beliefs. Until just recently, I’ve always had a hard time seeing other people’s opinions as valid. I’m quick to downplay someone else’s opinion as unfounded, whilst touting my own opinion as God’s truth.
I could get more detailed, but these were the big pillars of my stubbornness.
Maturity has helped some, but the biggest change happened after becoming friends with someone from my first job out of college. I’ve written about her a lot on this blog, partly because she’s one of only two friends I have, and also because she has played a huge part in me getting over myself and maturing.
I was a bit of a loner in middle school and high school. The aforesaid stubbornness and general lack of social aptitude was a big factor. I’m also painfully shy, and it’s hard for me to make friends. I had a couple close friends in high school, but I ended up ruining those eventually.
I had one close friend in college, but we quickly grew apart after I graduated.
All that to say, I didn’t have much experience with having close friends. Everything was superficial and based on which sports I played in high school.
Looking back on my friendship with my coworker, I think I was somewhat desperate for a friend, and I got good vibes from her, so she seemed like a good choice. For some reason, she wanted to be friends with me as well.
I became comfortable around her quickly. I trusted her completely within a couple of months. Invariably, when I am comfortable with someone, I am not shy about showing my darker moods. It was no different with this friend. I lashed out at her cruelly and unnecessarily at some point.
I have a lot of pent up anger and shame, and I typically do not express those things in healthy ways. In fact, I am decidedly 100% passive aggressive when I’m in a bad place (which is a lot of the time).
Passive aggression is my modus operandi in almost every situation, especially during conflict of any sort, even when I am the instigator of said conflict. And I’m a master of taking things out on innocent bystanders.
Anyway. I lashed out, and wouldn’t you know it, she didn’t bite. She didn’t stoop to my level. She also didn’t acquiesce and take it in the chin.
She did something else. Something she has done countless times for me because I am a slow learner.
What’d she do, you ask?
She called me on my bullshit. That simple. She cut right to the chase and said she wasn’t going to tolerate such behavior; I’d have to find someone else to abuse, she wasn’t going to be my whipping boy.
My parents had probably done something similar at some point, but it was a revelation as an adult coming from another adult.
I was embarrassed and ashamed. I apologized profusely. I thought I’d blown it. I had this brand new, great friend, and I let my true colors show. Well, I thought, it was nice while it lasted. Now she probably hates me.
At this point in my life, I still had my head firmly planted up my own ass, and I didn’t have a firm grasp on what healthy relationships were supposed to look like.
Being a mature person, my friend accepted my apology, and we moved on. I was incredibly relieved.
We’ve since done that dance at least a dozen times in our friendship. They’ve become much less frequent lately because I’m finally growing up, and also because I’m spreading the wealth and have another friend whom I sometimes plague with my dysfunction.
After we butt heads, once we resolve the conflict, I always feel like our friendship has been strengthened. Not all of our fights are a direct result of my immaturity; sometimes it’s simply a matter of disagreement that gets elevated and heated.
Either way, our friendship is deeper for all those instances of our strong personalities clashing. As we’ve discussed at length, friendships where the two people agree with everything the other says tend to be weak and shallow and vulnerable. Friendships like ours, though, are sturdier because we know we can disagree and still be friends at the end of the day.
Being such a colossal jerkface at times, I’ve had to get over my fear and vulnerability regarding apologies, and I’ve actually become quite good and comfortable with them (which is a sad commentary, on one hand).
A few months ago, a different friend texted me and said she did something really stupid to her boyfriend. She didn’t know what to do. I told her she should apologize, and then I sent her a rough draft of the tone she could take in an apology. Yeah, she just used exactly what I wrote. I think everything turned out okay.
I’ve gained a sense of humility over the past several years, which is one of the keys to a good apology. I usually don’t apologize right away. I let myself cool down and reflect on exactly what I did wrong so that I can author a sincere and thorough apology.
If she would have given up on me after my first blowup, I honestly would not be the person I am today. She has helped me grow in immeasurable ways.
Not only has she helped me grow, I am now considerably more open to friendships of all shapes and sizes and worldviews.
I’ve since gained another great friend with whom I have a similarly meaningful and blessed relationship. I have intimacy issues because of my past, and this friend has helped me be more comfortable with platonic affection.
As a result of these two friendships, I am much quicker to ask forgiveness, and my apologies are sincerer. I do not hold grudges nearly as often as I did well into my twenties and granting forgiveness comes more easily.
I am more open to other people’s opinions, and I know that two people can have equally valid, albeit differing, views on things and still be friends.
I will never tire of writing about either on of these friends, and I’m sure I will repeat myself intermittently.
Oh well, it’s worth it.