Borderline Personality Disorder For Dummies
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We have great compassion for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). We know painful emotions permeate their lives. Guilt and regret are two especially powerful emotions that often plague people with BPD.

saying sorry © Christin Lola /

We also know that folks who love people with BPD often feel terribly hurt and confused. Some have endless optimism that their loved ones with BPD will improve. Others give up and move on. Either way, people with BPD feel better when they take personal responsibility for the roles they’ve played in hurting the people who care about them. Part of getting better involves being able to tell the people you have hurt, “I’m sorry.” This list offers ten ways to tell your loved ones that you’re sorry.

Say the Words Out Loud

A simple but, at times, excruciatingly difficult way to communicate remorse is by speaking the words out loud. For some people, apologizing seems almost impossible. If you feel overwhelmed by this challenge, talk to your therapist about it. Try role-playing in one of your sessions. Then ask yourself the following questions:
  • What does saying I’m sorry mean about me as a person?
  • How can saying I’m sorry help me and the other person?

Saying you’re sorry actually suggests that you’re a brave person — someone who can own up to mistakes. Saying you’re sorry can help the one you hurt as well as yourself. Although apologizing won’t negate past wrongs, it’s a move in the right direction — especially if you commit yourself to continuous growth.

Ask for Forgiveness

Saying you’re sorry is only half of the picture. The other part is asking for forgiveness. Sounds pretty easy, right? “Please forgive me.”

People who’ve been hurt by people with BPD have likely been told, “I’m sorry,” or “Please forgive me,” more than once. Asking for forgiveness must come with a spoken or unspoken pledge to work at making life better for both you and the person you hurt. In other words, when people with BPD ask for someone’s forgiveness, they must be starting or getting treatment and learning the skills that will improve their relationships. After all, asking forgiveness is a promise to work on reducing the hurt.

Run an Errand

You’ve heard the expression, “Actions speak louder than words.” Well, being professional writers, we’re not sure that we agree 100 percent; but, in the quest for making amends, you need to think hard about this concept.

For example, consider running an errand for someone you care about and think you may have hurt with your BPD-driven behaviors. This errand can involve picking up the groceries, filling up the gas tank, going to the post office, picking up the kids from school, or taking the tax forms to the accountant. The task doesn’t have to be difficult, but it should be something that your partner, family member, or friend usually does for herself.

Send Flowers

Almost everyone likes flowers. And getting flowers from someone you care about feels good. You don’t have to spend a fortune. A small bunch from the grocery store can brighten up moods and get your point across. If you can’t afford the cost of a bouquet, buy a single flower.

Send a Card

A card can also be a thoughtful way to express your feelings, whether you want to ask for forgiveness, say you’re sorry, or tell someone how special he or she is. You can buy a paper card or go online and find an e-card. Make sure you spend some time looking at and reading the card before you send it. You probably don’t want to send your partner a card designed for someone’s third birthday, even if it does look pretty cute.

Do a Chore

Again, the chore doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just make sure that it involves something that your friend, partner, or family member usually has to do. For example, you can clean the garage, make a special dinner, pay the bills, wash the car, pick up around the house, or file financial papers. Whatever you choose to do for someone you care about, do it without complaining or bragging about what you did.

Write your Thoughts

Writing out your thoughts can be one of the most meaningful ways to show and explain your feelings. Your loved one will appreciate the time you spent thinking about him or her. Here are a few pointers:
  • Never send anything that you wrote in the middle of the night without proofing it in the morning.
  • Don’t send a letter that’s basically self-defense and justification.
  • Don’t write your letter after you’ve been drinking or getting high.
  • Remember that when you write something, whomever you give it to can save it forever.

Find a Poem

Sometimes you can’t express yourself in a way that fully describes your feelings or passions. Poetry sings a message. If you haven’t read poetry since high school (okay, that goes for about 90 percent of the population), go to your local library or bookstore and browse for a couple of hours with a cup of coffee. Whether or not you understand everything you read, a few of the poems will surely inspire you.

Borrow the book from the library or buy it from the store. Copy the poem in your best handwriting or type it on the computer. Add a few comments about what meaning the poem holds for you and what you think about the person you’re giving it to. Send the poem and your comments to the person you may have hurt.

Send a Small Gift

Small gifts are another way to express your feelings. In many ways, small is truly better than large. Large gifts generally come with implicit strings attached, whether you intend them or not. Small gifts, especially gifts that may have special meaning to the person you wronged, have much more power and, yet, no strings.

If you want to express your regret or sorrow with your therapist, we generally recommend avoiding gifts whether small or large. Many therapists work under ethical codes that discourage accepting gifts, and they aren’t necessary anyway. Simply express your feelings verbally or in writing.

Make Amends: Giving or Volunteering

Sometimes your past actions from long ago continue to plague your mind with guilt and regret. Often, the person you hurt has moved on, died, or simply isn’t available for you to make amends directly. In these cases, consider designing a plan for making amends.

Such plans can entail making a contribution to others. The contribution may be giving money, spending time, or providing a skilled service to someone or a group of people who need help. A few of our favorite charitable activities include becoming a dog walker at the Humane Society, working at a local food bank, tutoring people who want to learn English, and participating in a community trash pickup. You can also donate money to a group that’s important to either you or the person you’re making amends with. Call your local Red Cross or United Way office for more possibilities. You can’t undo the past, but you can feel better about who you are becoming today by contributing to others.

Saying you’re sorry, asking forgiveness, and making amends are only useful when you accompany them with a commitment to make things better — not a promise of perfection, but a sincere effort.

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