When you admire and like working with someone, and think you've disappointed them, you don't want to come back and face them until you've done something spectacularly awesome for them to make up for it. It's not really about them; it's about preservation of your own self-image as a Good Person. It's about saving your faee, not about helping others.
I'm not proud of doing this, and even when I realize I'm doing it, I let it fester ("maybe if I don't acknowledge it, nobody will notice and I'll still look good!") And going back and admitting this to the people I've disappointed does not get easier with time. It doesn't feel good afterwards because you've "done the right thing." In fact, it feels terrible.
It does clear the air and take that thing off my shoulders. It does give me some closure and force me to say "okay, I learned from that mistake." It doesn't mean I won't make it again (I do and will), but at least I won't make it in the same way. I'll be more conscious of it. I'll do everything in my power to keep from disappointing the other person again. If you want my unending loyalty, forgive me for messing up. That's all.
It seems like if there's a person I want to be totally rock-solid reliable for, I should find a way to disappoint them as quickly as possible, and then face up to it and get over it and Never Do That Again. (I may have to do this multiple times for extended relationships.) Over time, I'm learning how to get more quickly over the "disappointment" hump, in the hopes that it will vanish entirely if I keep working on it.
This post is an attempt to state this bug in words so I can kill it more effectively, and to give myself a template for the sort of response I want to give: first draft below, suggestions welcomed. (The actual wording will be different and refer to specific incidents; right now I'm trying to get the gist of what I should rephrase each time.)
I'm sorry. I should have done this, but I didn't, and things sucked for you as a result. I can't fix it or make up for the loss I've caused you, but I do want to acknowledge that I've caused you trouble, and apologize for it. There are a few things I can think of that I could do to mitigate the trouble moving forward; here are some things I have already done. I feel awful for disappointing you, as I admire and respect you and would like to keep on working with you, though I know that it's going to take time and results to regain that trust. It's taken too long for me to tell you this because I was afraid of losing your respect, and I'll do my best to be more vigilant about keeping you informed in the future. Can we try again? What can I do to help?
There. Now that I know what I need to say if I disappoint someone in the future, I can avoid doing it; it's just turned from a Big Awful Thing Of Undefined Scariness into a concretely defined self-imposed consequence that I can now go "okay, yes. I'm going to manage things so that I do not have to do this."
It strikes me that I forgive others much more readily than I forgive myself.