Inappropriate hug needs to become learning moment

Q: When I drove to the city a few days ago to shop for a graduation present for my nephew, I ran into an old school friend in the jewelry store.

I was excited. It has been years since I have seen her and that is sad. I miss her.

We were very close friends (not dating buddies) when we were in high school together and we kept in touch for a number of years afterward. But both of us are married now and each of us has gone our separate ways.

I think about her every now and then and I often wonder how she is doing.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing romantic about this. I love my wife and I am sure that my former friend is committed to her husband. We were simply really good and close buddies.

After she and I chatted for a few moments and said our “goodbyes” I reached over to give her a hug.

Wow. Was that ever the wrong thing to do. I am not sure what she read into my hug but whatever it was, she turned right off. When I think about it now, I get really embarrassed. Obviously, I read this whole thing wrong. I should not have tried to hug her without her permission. I would like to apologize to her or to do something to let her know that I screwed up but I am not too sure how to go about it without causing more problems. What do you suggest?

A: My guess is that you are feeling just terrible about what happened between you and your long, lost high school buddy and that you would like nothing better than to get rid of that feeling. I don’t blame you.

Probably shame, guilt and embarrassment are the worst feelings we can carry around. Unfortunately, I am not sure that you are going to get rid of them quickly. Neither should you. This is a learning opportunity for you that could well be lost if you manage to camouflage your indiscretion through some kind of a benign apology to your friend.

In fact, as a learning possibility, it has already started. You know now that you needed to show more respect for your friend’s personal boundaries, as you should for anyone’s personal territory. Her reaction to your advances is a great reminder of how important it is that each of us respect the integrity of each other.

Don’t expect your friend to forgive and forget the incident. That is not her job, just as it is not her job to rekindle your moment of self-esteem by taking in some kind of an apology from you.

The person who needs to forgive and forget the incident is you. You made a mistake. You are going to learn from the mistake.

By acknowledging that you made a mistake and by learning what you can from it, you have gone a long way to stoking your personal kiln for another brick for your wall of self-worth.

Shame and guilt dissipate when overshadowed by self-esteem. Only then will you be off the hook.

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