I typically tell someone I’m sorry for something 3 to 4 times a day. Lately, though, I catch myself before I apologize. Because I’ve realized in truth I’m not sorry, not even at all, and I’m not even sorry I’m not sorry, either.
I left an email sitting in my inbox for quite some time recently. When I finally had proper time to give it the kind of response it was worthy of, I nearly began my reply with, “I’m so sorry it’s taken me this long to reply…” But something inside me welled up and niggled like a picket line protest and gave me pause. For though I may have wished I could’ve responded sooner, ‘sorry’ wasn’t the right word.
Similarly, I’m not sorry when I need to ask someone a question to clarify something I don’t understand or when I need to ask for help to accomplish a task. I’m not sorry I can’t spin an additional plate in the air along with the dozen I’ve already got twirling.
When someone pushes me past my limits, prompting me to place some boundaries in between us, I’m not sorry. When I feel taken for granted and choose to explain so to the person at fault to try to save the relationship, I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry when I’m not who others think I should be. I’m not sorry when my choices don’t align with theirs. And I’m not going to say I’m sorry anymore unless I truly am.
Sorry is for when we hurt people. Apology is for when we make a mistake that truly lets someone down. Contrition is for when we know better and can do better and even so we choose not to. If we’re always feeling sorry for all the things, what a sorry state we’re always going to be in. Further, when overused, “I’m sorry,” gets diluted and loses the punch it should pack for properly expressing our actual heartfelt regret and remorse.
If we say we’re sorry for expressing our genuine hearts and beautiful minds, for not buying some of the neighbor kid’s fundraiser wrapping paper again this year, or for saying no to taking on even more duties within one of the ninety-two commitments we have then does our apology for lashing out in anger and deeply hurting someone still carry the weight it should? And can we afford to continually feel sorry for so many things?
A lovely in every way friend of mine, especially in her imperfections, recently commented bravely in response to a tasteless joke posted on a Facebook page. The joke was highly insensitive to the deaf and hard of hearing community and she began her comment by saying, “I’m sorry, but this is offensive . . .” She was right and so I wondered at her need to begin her dissent with an apology. Why should she feel apologetic for peacefully calling out a perhaps thoughtless, but nonetheless offensive joke that will likely further encumber already burdened hearts?
Another friend had been absent from our friend group for a while due to being more than a little down and out in this crazy hard but so worth it life. When she felt ready to resurface and re-engage she announced her return with, “I’m sorry I haven’t been around.” We understood and supported her need to check out for as long as she needed to but I can’t comprehend why she felt compelled to apologize for picking up her own reins. For slowing her life down to a pace she could handle. For taking good care of herself.
A third friend just recently apologized for breaking down and crying while we talked. She said she was sorry for bawling, she didn’t know why she was doing it for it wasn’t like her at all. She also stated she was sorry she hadn’t put on makeup or styled her hair that day.
What are we seemingly always so sorry for, exactly? That we aren’t measuring up to our own standards? If so, can we consider lowering our own bar until the need to say we’re sorry we are who we are fades into oblivion? Are we sorry we might be offending people when we show up in our natural, unalterable state of imperfection? If so, can we rely on how we neither expect nor value perfection in others, parlaying that truth into the extrapolation perfection is just as gross in ourselves as well?
What if we were to omit ‘sorry’ when we say things like, “I’ve been away because I needed to be.” “You’re being hurtful to people and so I’m calling you out for it.” Or, “I don’t know why I’m crying.” Will we be any less kind, worthy, valued, or listened to? Less respected or loved if we fail to profess we’re sorry for most of the things we think, say and do? I don’t believe so.
I have a new dream in which every woman in the land decides or realizes, whichever it takes, she is not sorry for every little thing. In my dream, we learn to replace off the cuff apologies like, “I’m sorry I’m running late,” to, “Thank you so much for your patience.” Misplaced apologies like, “I’m sorry to have to ask,” to, “I deeply appreciate your help.” Can you think of a switcheroo of your own you can employ in this regard?
When we show up in life just as we are, wielding our specialized equipment for utilizing our precise gifts, digging in with people even though our limitations, we have nothing to be sorry about. We may perceive we come up short and thus feel vulnerable and uncertain of how we measure up or where we belong, but that’s no reason to offer an apology. It’s merely a reason to appreciate those who love and accept us anyway. Even though.
Continually offering up our true selves, lacking though we may be is a very good reason to feel fierce and brave and courageous. For when we allow ourselves to espouse these qualities even though we’ve imperfections, we more readily recognize fierce bravery and courage in others as well.
We can’t be all things to all people all of the time and we shouldn’t feel the need to say we’re sorry for that impossibility. The impossible is not meant to be achieved, its meant to be recognized so we can focus our efforts on what is possible instead. And I’m not even sorry I’m not sorry for thinking so.
Originally published by the entirely awesome online publication, Her View From Home.