Reasons Are Reasonable (to Me)

by Jeph Johnson


Call it a pet peeve or even a quirky character flaw, but if I am hurt by someone, an apology is NOT the first thing I look for. In fact, sometimes if a good enough explanation is presented to me, no apology is even necessary.


I want a reason.


I want them to defend their action.


I don't see reasons (often referred to as "excuses") in a negative light. I see reasons as necessary components for producing a more heartfelt remorse in those who've hurt me, and in me, a more valid sense of forgiveness.


For me, knowing motives and reasons behind one's actions makes things feel not so hurtful. Reasons become comforting words of reassurance that people are not just being evil assholes or bullies. Understanding a person's reasons behind their actions confirms to me that the hurtful act was not some sort of vengeance or retaliation against a perceived fault of my own.


Unfortunately, this is not the case with most everyone else I have encountered. I have found others feel relief (and presumably forgiveness) immediately after an apology is given.


No excuses.


No explanations.


No alternative stories.


And especially no denials.


Apparently ownership of one's misdeed is what counts and a person's intent behind their actions or mistake is valued only as a nice curiosity or afterthought.


Often I have attempted to convey the rationale behind a questionable action I have done that may have produced unintended results. It has been done with a sincere motive to help ease hurt, only to have the exact opposite thing happen. Instead I am thought of as less sympathetic and less thoughtful and I seem to hurt them more.


For some unknown reason, defending one's questionable actions sounds unapologetic, even when an apology is given!


"I am sorry I splashed water on you."


...apparently holds more clout than:


"I was rushing my wife to the hospital with a brain hemorrhage and hydroplaned across the puddle and must have splashed you. I am so sorry. Are you okay?"


When someone hurts another, I realize, regardless of what one person felt really happened, the hurt person making the claim (hereby referred to as the "victim") believes their version of an event is true for them. Each person's reality is formed for each individual participant in any activity or event.


But shouldn't the victim have their mind open to healing just as much as the alleged perpetrator has their mind open to understanding the victim's feelings? This sort of understanding can only come about through communication. And communication is displayed by conveying reasons as well as understanding feelings.


I absolutely hate when someone feels you have hurt them, that the "proper" course of action is to offer up an apology and refrain from explaining yourself, providing excuses or giving justification.


I often hear people say in a condescending tone:


"You're just trying to justify it!"


Well yeah, of course I am. If it wasn't justifiable I would do what everybody else does and offer up my apologies without an excuse!


I guess what I don't understand is why providing justification for your actions somehow discredits your apology?


Is it "only when asked" that our excuses are valid?


I must keep reminding myself that a blanket apology without giving a reason is not an admission of guilt, even if, to me, it sounds just like that.

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