There’s nothing I hate more than the insincere, glib phrase “I’m sorry.” It’s a phrase increasingly permeating our lexicon, a tactic employed to appease or smooth over a situation where there’s any chance of misinterpretation or to tone down a blatantly honest comment delivered or an action at hand. It’s Machiavellian and passive-aggressive in nature.
In the unfailingly faux-polite Midwestern city I live in, I hear people utter this trite phrase hundreds of times per day for a myriad of different reasons, most of which are not actual infractions demanding an apology, such as a non-brusque sideswipe of a stranger on the street or a cheeky farcical quip that may make its recipient laugh or quell with anger. It’s gotten to the point where we apologize for being ourselves, and that we’re somehow convinced that our actions are shameful and impediments on the livelihood of others. We no longer speak from the heart and state what we mean for fear of this, and if we do it feels insincere because of the requisite apology the formalities of “polite society” demand.
I’ve fallen into this trap myself, far too many times than I wish to admit. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally anxious, but the populace’s tendency toward mollification is part of what drives my anxiety. Living in a city where what’s mistaken for politeness is de rigueur is tiring, and though the words “I’m sorry” carry a genteel graciousness in their basic meanings, their affect is Minnesota nice, the Midwestern equivalent of the backhanded Southern insult “God bless you!”
Apology is impolite. It is impolite to ourselves to not speak our truths; sometimes we have to step on the toes of others to get our points across. Take into consideration that the average person is a guileless wishy-washy people pleaser who stands for nothing. The fact that we refuse to stand for something without apologizing brings us down to their level.
The remedy to this anathema is simple; stop apologizing. It’s easier said than done, a feedback loop we must wean ourselves off of rather than quitting cold turkey. Unfailing politeness is the main reason society has plateaued. It’s why we’re idle ignoramuses who are unable to express ourselves in fear that we may become polarizing and lose social status. “I’m sorry” is a loaded, meaningless phrase that drives us away from authenticity in exchange for unflinchingly blasé mores and manners that are the antithesis of human nature, which we seem to have forgotten to embrace.