“Always say you’re sorry,” we tell the children in our lives when they push a friend or take a cookie without asking. When we’re learning to talk it’s “Mama,” “Dada,” “yes,” “no,” “sorry.”
Sorry is the word used to fix everything. It’s how you get away with something you did wrong. A smile and a heartfelt “I’m sorry” can go a long way, we’re taught. Sorry can be important when we mean it, but I have a feeling it’s also the most common word we hear when we’re out and about. I’m sorry I spilled your coffee as I run away to my business meeting, or I’m sorry you’re angry at me and we don’t have time to talk about it right now because I don’t really care. I’m sorry for nothing at all, but I don’t know what else to say.
We have become chronic apologizers.
I am the worst offender of the “I’m sorry.” I apologize when people bump into me. I apologize when someone else is having a bad day. Sorry is a word that ends most of my sentences. Sometimes it even begins them. I start apologizing before I even get a chance to say what I wanted to say. It’s as if I feel like I have to tack on a constant apology for my presence, before I’ve even gotten a chance to let people know who I am. I’m just a gigantic apology. My friends yell me at all the time for my needless apologies. I don’t blame them either – what must it feel like to have someone apologize for everything when you know they didn’t do anything wrong?
Our constant apologizing makes people feel guilty. We’re making them feel like they have something to be sorry for. Should they be feeling sorry too, they wonder? A guy I was seeing would tell me that I was so amazing, and he couldn’t understand why I would apologize for that. He was right. Constantly apologizing isn’t healthy. If we apologize for everything, are we really even sorry anymore? If we apologize for everything, we’re sort of apologizing for being alive in the first place.
Is there a reason we’re always sorry? Maybe we feel like we don’t deserve the good things that have come our way in this life, and we need to apologize in order to deserve. It’s as if we think we’re not worth it. We think we’re respecting everyone else with our sorry’s, but what we’re really doing is disrespecting ourselves. We’re worth being around. We don’t have to apologize for that. We don’t have anything to be sorry for. Sometimes, sure. If we step on someone’s foot or forget we were supposed to pick up our friend for lunch. At this point though, we’re apologizing for taking up too much space on the sidewalk or breathing too much air. Stop apologizing for being alive. Being alive, being human, and making mistakes are all beautiful parts of this life. Stop apologizing them away.
Maybe there are things we’re trying to say with our sorry’s, but we’re going about it the wrong. We want people to know that we feel bad that they’re having a bad. Be inquisitive instead. Find out why someone is feeling a certain way, why they’re having a bad day, why they’re upset. Find out the reason behind their distress instead of apologizing it away.
Often we think we’re making people angry or upset, so we apologize for ourselves before they can demand it from us. Let them explain how they feel before you go throwing apologies at them. If they’re mad or upset, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be sorry. People are going to feel things and we can’t always control that. Let them feel.
Sorry can be very dismissive. People usually just want someone to vent to about their problems rather than someone to just say sorry and forget about how they’re feeling. Sorry is used too much and in the wrong ways, and I’m not really sure it’s worth much of anything at all anymore. We need to take back the power of sorry by using it less.
We are all human. Sometimes we’re going to make mistakes, and we should own up to those mistakes and apologize when the need for it is there. We need to save the sorry’s for when we really mean them. If we don’t, our apologies become meaningless. Even young children are told, say it like you mean it. Kids are saying sorry without actually being sorry, and we need to stop it all. We want people to believe that we truly mean it when we say we’re sorry, and that it’s not just something we throw around. When we’re truly remorseful, the word sorry should be powerful and special coming out of our mouths.
If we apologize for asking a question or sitting too close to someone on the subway, then we’re devaluing the word altogether. Save it. We need it sometimes, but most of the time, we don’t need to be sorry. We’re only human.