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Did someone in your past hurt you to the point where you can’t let go? Were you abused as a child by a parent, guardian, or another adult? Or were you mistreated as a young adult and you’re still waiting for that person to apologize for what they did?

You are a beautiful, talented, and precious individual. The people you love need you here and now—100%. But it’s very possible that past experiences may be holding you back from living your dreams and being fully present for them. There’s also a chance you’re never going to get the apology you’ve needed for so long. So what do you do about it? Give yourself the permission you’ve been waiting for to be the wonderful person—and parent, friend, companion—you were intended to be.

Inspired by her own experience of writing the letter of apology she knew she was never going to get, author Valerie Utton wrote Letters of Apology: How to Stop Waiting for Permission to Be the Wonderful Person You Are (Inkwell Productions, 2007). In it she compiles a collection of anonymously written letters of apology contributed by people who were truly sorry for the hurt they imposed on others. Then, with encouragement and guidance, she inspires readers with the knowledge that they can write the letter of apology they’ve been waiting for, freeing themselves in the process. In her book she says:

“The truth is that we don’t need anybody’s apology to tell us who we are. The idea that anyone can give us permission to believe in our own true innate self worth is nothing more than an illusion that can be exposed as easily as we can expose the magic of pulling a coin out of a child’s ear.”

Like many, I was mistreated as a child. Through my own healing, I realized I had to come up with the apology I was due on my own. I learned that in order to be the person I wanted to be, I had to rid myself of the anger and hatred for that person so I could forgive and move on. Ultimately, that act of forgiveness was for me and not the person who hurt me.

So why don’t we all apologize for the things we did (and do) that hurt others? Some avoid apologizing because thinking about what they did brings up feelings of shame and embarrassment. Parents who have done things that hurt their children don’t always step up to apologize. It’s easier to push it away instead of dealing with it head on. What they don’t know is that their child may be waiting for an apology before they move on with their life.

Valerie says that apologies should be simple and straight forward. She said they can be difficult to hear and accept if they are diluted with indirect blame and justifications. But a true, healing apology should include just seven words, I’m sorry I did this to you. That’s it! Is there a letter of apology you need to write to yourself or someone else today?

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Bill Corbett is the author of the award-winning book and parent education course, Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent's Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids (Cooperative Kids, 2011) and an international keynote speaker on matters of family and children.

He is the producer and host of the radio talk show Parent Talk, formerly heard on the Clear Channel network, and executive producer and host of the public access television show Creating Cooperative Kids. Bill delivered the opening keynote at a national education conference in 2015 in Amersfoort, The Netherlands.

Bill sits on the board of the domestic violence education organization, The Network Against Domestic Abuse and received the TOP 100 MEN recognition by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence for his active work in the community, educating men and women on the importance of developing positive relationships.

He holds a degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Phoenix and is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology (NASAP). He and his wife Elizabeth have six adult children between them and three grandchildren, and live in Connecticut.

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Love this, Bill! The thing about apologizing–taking ownership for what you did–is that it is SO freeing. I’m always surprised when I resist how much energy that takes. And then when I accept, apologize, and let go, how much energy gets freed up!
    Thank you for this!

  2. Bill – I like the idea of writing a letter for yourself to alleviate or remove the angst you’ve held onto. I’ve sent a copy to a niece who is in prison and holds lots of resentment (much of it deserved from what I have observed) against her mother. She has moved forward in many other ways; hope this helps clear more for her.

    1. You are wonderful Virginia for trying to help her. It is heartbreaking to us when we have someone close to us who is trapped by someone else’s actions or words. And we can’t save everyone, we can only do it one person at a time and a person is open to learning and ready to do their part to make change. Thanks for reading the post.

    1. Thanks for commenting Barbara, and you’re right… it’s in the power of forgiveness, but a special kind of forgiveness… it’s taking the steps to release that persons hold on us. I experienced it myself with the abuse I suffered as a child (oldest of 8) and today, able to peacefully spend time with my parents without feeling the resentment and pain, knowing they will never own up to what they did or how their actions resulted in the deaths of 3 of my siblings.

  3. Dear Bill – Thank you. My mother died recently. I never did get the apology from her I wanted my whole life. A simple, sincere ” I am sorry ” would have done so much for me.
    After reading this, I will write my own letter of apology that I always wished she would have.
    May God continue to bless you.

    1. Thank you so much for reading my post and for taking the time to comment. You are so right, that a simple apology would do so much for so many. Unfortunately (as you know) we can’t control the actions of others. All we can do is keep our emotionally safe in ways that takes care of our needs. I know too many people who are still waiting for that apology and will leave this world, unhappy and angry, unnecessarily. Good for you for what you will commit to do, to write yourself that letter and release yourself from the control of others. Thank you again for reading!

  4. Bill this is awesome! Thanks for sharing! I’ll never get this apology from the one who abused me but I don’t let my life stay in this time, I have “Changed My Story, Change My World! Thanks for ALL you do to helping MANY!!

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