When is it too late to account for your actions? Three years, 5, 10, how about edging into 19 years? And considering an overdue apology (as is in this case), does the type of relationship you have, or had, with the person you wronged matter?
I’ve had a few long-overdue accountings owed in my life. The major one was to my father. We had a falling out and went ten years without speaking, but our point of issue occurred in my childhood.
That original issue became a chasm in the fabric of our relationship that, for me, linked to every other aspect of our life together. It would be darned together now and then, but the thread was never as strong as it should have been.
Until one sleepless night, at 2 AM, I distinctly heard Spirit’s message, shot straight up in bed, and said, “I know what I have to account for!” I was finally clear on what my part of the issue was. My father and I had begun to dip our toes back in the water of communication by that point but hadn’t seen each other yet, our relationship still felt slightly murky. I can joyfully say that now we are thoroughly repaired, and I believe stronger than ever.
Ground Zero for us was 28 years ago, and he’s my dad, Duke (Granddad) to my children. What about accounting for a messy argument with a “friend/more than a friend” person - an argument that ended all communication? What if you’ve clearly moved on, and you’re blissfully married? Do you still go back and account for your wrongs to your “more than friend/not really an ex” person? Account for your failed moments, from 19 years ago?
I was sure of my regrets shortly after our squabble, but I didn’t have the tools in my young 23 years to clean it up. Communication was not a strong suit of mine. I do now have those tools, and I have for some time. To simply say, “You were right. I was vague with my feelings, and it wasn’t fair to you. I totally failed, and I’m sorry.”
Can my 40-something-year-old self go back and do clean-up? Not to change the past or even the present, but to own my part on behalf of my 20-something-year-old self? It’s nothing to do with any “what-ifs,” or the like, in that relationship and everything to do with the handling of the situation. It has to do with how I wish I had shown up. In fairness, clarity of thought, mind, and feeling. In this human-to-human journey.
I considered looking this person up online several times over the years but thought how weird that would be, so out of the blue, too random, so I left it be.
When we moved back to Texas, I pondered all the undealt with things that might pop up on my path, reappearing for healing. This was one of those things. So instead of a random email to him, I gave it to chance. “OK, if I randomly run into him one day, I’ll say, ‘Hi, remember that time you got really mad, told me some hard to hear truths, threw my phone in the pool, and left? I know I sucked. I’m sorry.’ ” More thoughtful than that though, of course.
Yes, well… Easter Sunday, after church service at the Ren Faire, I noticed him. He was standing only a few feet behind me with his camera, photographing the bird show. I had time to say something as the show was just beginning, and remember I had rehearsed this conversation years previously. But he was taking pictures, and as a photographer, I’d be pissed to miss the shot I was there for - especially to hear an out-of-date apology from someone with no current connection to my life to boot. I waited.
Eventually, I spoke, “Hi.”
We chatted awkwardly for a few minutes, I introduced him to my three kids and my husband, and we parted ways. My husband and big kid were like, “That was odd. Who is he?” They were right; it was awkward.
Life, to me, is about the continual unfolding of Spirit. Growth. And on Easter Sunday, a day that for me signifies re-birth, here I was with a God wink, a sign and an opportunity to account for myself because, yes, it matters. Maybe not to him, but in my own evolution on this journey of life, but I never got around to expressing my apology in those few minutes.
Nineteen years, it isn’t too late though. I know this because I’m still here in this earthly body, capable, and becoming…frequently forgiving myself for all of my fails, which do eventually transform into my learnings.
I pray that I am teaching and modeling responsibility well for my kids. My earnest desire is that they can do this for their lives; that they don’t ignore issues, hide from their failed experiences, or carry burdens. But rather empty their cup, find humility, clean up the interior of their houses, and seek accountability, especially in life’s messy moments.
This is about right action with my own inner being. I can do better today - own up for my actions and lack of them too. I wonder, is just knowing all this and doing better now in life…enough? Or, do I head to the Internet and look for an email address to send the awkward, although less random, email.
Rev. Kimberly Lindsay, CPCC, ORSCC, CPQC
Mental Fitness Consulting for Spiritual Leaders