Autobiography of an Introvert

The Secret Power of “I’m Sorry”

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“I’m sorry.”  When you consider the complicated English language, it’s an exceptionally simple sentence.  One contraction and an easy to pronounce five letter word, it still manages to hold a lot of power.  Despite my love for language, it’s a sentence with which I’ve always struggled.  As a child, I hated saying I’m sorry.  I saw an apology as accepting fault for something done wrong.  I’ve always done my best to avoid conceding that I am wrong, so clearly I like to avoid apologizing.  To me, “I’m sorry” is an admission of weakness.  There is nothing I despise more than admitting to my own weakness. 

Why do we over-apologize?

But then, I grew older and life happened.  Somewhere between an obstinate child and a nearly middle aged adult, I went from refusing to apologize to suddenly being sorry for EVERYTHING.  Rachel Hollis’ latest book Girl, Stop Apologizing speaks directly to my soul.  (Read my review of her book here.) My fear of falling short of perfection leaves me apologizing for all of my perceived shortcomings.  I’ll apologize for being late or for being early; when I bump into someone or when someone bumps into ME; for not living my life according to someone else’s expectations. 

After leaving the idealism of youth far behind me, I suddenly realized that I WAS at fault…often…and I was also full of weakness.  Of course, I’m full of incredible strength as well, but that’s not where my insecurities choose to dwell.  Like so many people, now I find myself apologizing too often.  Dr. Juliana Breines warns in her article “When ‘I’m Sorry’ is Too Much,” that over-apologizing not only makes the words themselves seem flippant and insincere, but it can also become self-destructive.  Instead of asking for forgiveness, she gives a list of alternatives, such as saying “thank you,” and simply embracing your imperfections as the unique traits that make you who you are. 

But what do you do when someone expects an apology for something which you aren’t really sorry?

Sometimes a disagreement or poor communication escalates to the point that everyone is equally injured.   Both parties feel that they are owed an apology, and because of this no one budges.  When you find yourself at such an impasse, where do you go?

If you are anything like me, your instinct is to be stubborn.  I am not wrong.  I did not initiate the attack; therefore I am not going to say I’m sorry.  Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you’re also far too emotional and introspective. (Read about how to handle toxic relationships here.) The marred relationship becomes an open, festering wound that refuses to heal.  It’s important to prioritize your relationship over your ego.  Giving the other person what they need – an apology – ultimately gives YOU what you need:  peace of mind, and the rekindling of a connection that is important to you. 

Apologizing doesn’t have to be the price of weakness

Apologizing does not have to be the price of weakness, but rather a show of your strength.  It takes strength to recognize your shortcomings and admit that you need to work on them.  As much as my gut instinct might be to respond with righteous indignation, there is little satisfaction in being “right” and alone.  It takes strength to value a relationship enough that you are willing to choke back the hurt and give the other person what they need. 

Do you have a relationship that could be fixed with a simple “I’m sorry”?  Think about calling that person up.  Tell them you are sorry, even if you don’t mean it in the sense that they think.  Perhaps your words simply mean “I’m sorry I lost so much precious time with you while we were busy holding on to bitterness.” You might just find that it gives both of you a much needed sense of peace.

Check out these Amazon products for fun ways to apologize and ways to teach our children how to be humble enough to say “I’m sorry.”
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