Apologies are so important. When we hurt someone, we need to take the time to acknowledge the hurt we have caused, to name it and to commit to making it right and not doing it again. When we do, we are able to rebuild trust, to move the relationship forward and to begin to mend feelings of hurt in the other person.
Apologies are for when we have done something (intentionally or unintentionally) to cause harm to another person. When I step on someone’s toes walking by them, I apologize. When I say something hurtful to someone (even if I didn’t intend for it to hurt them, but later become aware that it did), I apologize.
Lately, I hear more and more people apologizing for things they have not done, but for who they are. They apologize for simply being themselves. They apologize when they have not hurt someone.
“I’m sorry for being late. I know that held you all up and I will be more careful to leave my home earlier next time.” is a good reason for an apology.
“I’m sorry for being so sensitive. I know I shouldn’t let your words get to me the way they did.” is NOT a good reason for an apology. Why are you apologizing for being sensitive? You haven’t done anything to hurt anyone else. Also, we need more sensitive people in the world. People who are sensitive to their own pain, are often also sensitive to the pain of others. We need more of you to bring hope and healing to a hardened and hurting world.
“I’m sorry for cutting you off. You were saying something really important and I shouldn’t have jumped in before you were done. Please go ahead and finish.” is a good reason for an apology.
“I’m sorry for saying anything.” when the receiver of your message doesn’t like what they hear, is NOT a good reason for an apology, provided you didn’t say anything to hurt them. Perhaps you are just expressing your feelings about a topic and they disagree. Don’t apologize for having an opinion. You are not only allowed to have your own opinion, your opinion MATTERS. So share it. Even if others don’t agree with it. Especially if others don’t agree with it.
Please, by all means, apologize when you have hurt someone, when you have lashed out with a tone that is biting, when you have forgotten to pick up the milk on the way home, or you borrowed your spouse’s keys and now can’t find them. Yes, apologize. For the small things and big things too.
Please stop apologizing for just being yourself, for having ideas that are different from others, for feeling things, for being joyful, for feeling angry at injustice. Please stop apologizing for mistakes that come from taking a risk and failing. Stop apologizing for the way you laugh, or your sarcastic sense of humour. Stop apologizing for the way you speak, for being awkward in social situations. Stop apologizing when you interrupt a racist or homophobic or misogynistic joke or story to tell them it isn’t funny and asking them to do better. Stop apologizing for being weird, for liking your hair or clothes a certain way, for insisting on others using your pronouns or your name. Stop apologizing for being you just because being you makes someone else feel uncomfortable.
The world will tell you to stop being a certain way. People will tell you you need to believe this or that. You can choose who you want to be in the world and how you want to show up. And sometimes, yes, we will hurt people. But we should be quick to apologize for those things. As for you and your wonderful, quirky self? Never apologize for being you again. Celebrate instead.