A sincere apology for the harm we have caused another I feel releases the one receiving it to the extent that that person is less likely to feel the harm was deserved. But we are often afraid to do this because we believe it invites others to harm us. Yet in reality, if it is sincere, it does the opposite in my opinion.
Many of us cope with emotional pain inflicted on us by believing that a degree of it is deserved and that’s why it is easy to dismiss our pain and trivialise it. This happens because we have grown to accept a level of harm inflicted upon us, so feeling pain while we hang on to this belief, occurs only because of our inability to cope with “reality” (as harm is believed to be an inevitable consequence of “reality”). So with such a belief perpetuated, we give ourselves an open ticket to harm others as well as giving others an open ticket to harm us. So any harm recognised or even felt by us or others as a consequence of direct action or even indirect action, is the “fault” of the person who has been harmed. This is a convenient way to wash our hands completely of responsibility of harming others as well as feeling the pain we have in ourselves when we are harmed.
Yet none of this changes the reality that harm is inflicted and pain is felt. And living in the denial about this actual reality will also not help anyone understand why we give ourselves “the right” to harm others or why we willingly accept harm done to us.
In both cases still the only reason this perpetuates, is precisely because we do not permit ourselves to feel the harm we believe we deserve and because we cannot do this for ourselves, we are convinced others deserve to be harmed by us in the same way we allow ourselves to be or have been. So in our minds, there exists a relative right of others to harm us and in the same way we have the right to harm others too, relative to the extent our personal experiences and subsequent beliefs dictate.
Therefore, a sincere apology not only allows others to see that they do not and did not deserve our actions of harm done to them but it will in turn allow ourselves to forgive ourselves for accepting harm done to us. When we are no longer in the position of accepting harm, we inevitably receive far less of it, give less of it and start breaking this cycle perpetuated by this false belief in “reality”.
This is in my mind the power of a sincere apology.