Should I say sorry?
Or how to forgive
— Prose — 3 min read
I said "sorry" a lot as a kid. More than the average child, but nothing beyond what I needed to avoid fallout with friends or family. But as an adult? Wow, I might have a regional record for Most Unnecessary Apologies in a Single 5 Minute Exchange With a Stranger.
I've been told I say sorry because I'm a Libra, a people-pleaser, the youngest of three, the product of a traumatic childhood, insecure, introverted, self-loathing, and self-pitying. (And all this is just from one therapist!) What's become more interesting lately is less about apologies for events today and more about apologies for events that happened years or decades ago. That have frankly been long-forgotten by the apology recipients.
Why, for instance, would I keep replaying a mindless slip of information at work 5 years ago that had no negative repercussions but led to an overwhelming feeling of letting down a trusted friend and mentor? It's a memory I've mulled over recently, and I've mentally accepted my mistake and learned from it. And that trusted friend and mentor? He accepted my apology and asked me to focus no energy on the slip-up.
But I have this urge to apologize again. To remind myself not to make the same mistake again, and to show this friend it will never happen again.
Should I say sorry?
When is the last time someone apologized to you, and you rejected their apology. And then, after they apologized again, you decided that was enough and forgave them. It seldom works that way. So why do I have this urge to apologize?
There's a good chance when I repeatedly apologize to you, I'm not really saying sorry. "I'm sorry" has become my filler. Awkward encounter? "I'm sorry." Not sure what to say next? "I'm sorry." You make a small hiccup, have a clumsy spill, physically bump me, or otherwise act in a manner that encourages me to think something unflattering about you? "I'm sorry."
But I'm realizing there's always a second half to "I'm sorry," and if I don't have an explicit reason, there's an unspoken reason that should be expressed. "I'm sorry I am petty and judge you for not doing your job." "I'm sorry I feel bad that you keep stubbing your toe on my door." "I'm sorry I can't handle someone that I don't trust getting in my personal space."
Maybe my therapist forgot one reason: I'm saying sorry for being judgmental. Sometimes it's other people. But when I really mean it, I'm judging myself.
I'm sorry I made the comment that you might be looking for other work. I made the comment in jest, as in "what are we gonna do when they leave!?" as though it was assumed knowledge. It was not. I didn't fully realize that the average coworker wouldn't have thought that about someone like you. Despite the recipient already expecting and planning for what I shared, that information was not mine to share. I'm sorry I put your professional livelihood in jeopardy until the two of you chatted about things openly.
I'm sorry that I think you're too good for this place, and I secretly wished you would leave so I'd be encouraged to follow. Perhaps I unconsciously mentioned what was likely to happen so I'd have my own open conversation about leaving. I'm sorry that I treated your employment as recklessly as I was treating mine.
Nope. Still feel the same after another one.