Note: This was an essay I originally wrote for a call for submissions on this particular topic, but after I had produced it, I discovered I didn’t qualify for the terms and conditions since I reside in Europe. Buuuut, why waste writing I’d invested in? So here it is. Obviously it’s only one viewpoint of a vast ocean of a subject, but this is what came to my mind upon facing the question about my sorries.
I am known as the serial apologizer in my family. At least I think I was until as recently as a year ago, when I felt like I started getting a handle on it. It had been almost like my own conversation signature that had to pop up at least once a day on any subject. My family helped me a lot in that area by the simple action of being affectionate and joking when my apologies were made in relation to harmless things, like putting something in what I thought was the wrong place or forgetting to confirm a date for a gathering way, way in advance. They would even anticipate when I was about to say sorry and calmly ask me not to.
I think the way I did it before first grew from the combination of taking my words and actions towards others seriously (sometimes too seriously), wanting to show consideration and viewing an apology as a validation of the fact that I was paying attention, present, capable of being honest. I’ve also definitely been the person who apologized automatically when she was bumped into on the street. I’ve apologized to diffuse what I thought was about to be an unexpected explosive reaction to something I did, since it was easy for me. I’ve apologized to stave off or break up fights about small things. Finally, I hope I also apologized when I thought I really did have to, for what I considered to be tactless words on my part or hurting someone’s feelings.
With time I tied apologizing to being able to assume responsibility for words and actions, something I tend to measure people by. Saying sorry for bigger things, for that which actually brings someone undeserved pain and suffering, should definitely be analyzed from within yourself, practiced and cultivated. Understanding that type of sorry doesn’t always happen overnight, and it carries weight that you need to be able to feel and then let go, remembering the impact of it.
For some saying sorry is just a turn of phrase. I found myself imitating that for a while, then I wanted to stop because it didn’t coincide with my personality and the distinctions I made about apologies. I began paying attention to my wording and in those cases where I would have previously said sorry, I substituted it with a polite statement of facts. “I can’t make that day because of so and so, but how about next week?” It was also a question of not succumbing to what felt like tiny lies. I wasn’t sorry about following a plan that had been arranged first, right? And neither was the other person I was talking to. So why even say so?
I guess I just stop myself more, take that extra second, as much as possible in the moment, on any level to evaluate whether I do actually need to make an apology. I think a lot of it is also connected to what I don’t feel apologetic about anymore, because I accept it for myself and I know that it’s not wrong.