I’m Sorry

IMG_6312“I’m sorry.”  How freely these words used to spill from my mouth — often with little thought behind them.  The words were simply a habitual response.  It took very little to trigger them.  I might have even found myself apologizing to a table leg that I accidentally kicked.  If I had to step over people to get to my assigned seat at a concert, I repeatedly said, “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry,” until I sat down.  

Used habitually and superficially, saying, “I’m sorry” can send a message to myself and others that I am pitiful and guilty and unworthy to take up space in the universe.  This is not a message I want to reinforce in my psyche. 

Many years ago a counselor helped me see that I had a tendency to apologize even when I had nothing to apologize for.  For example, if my husband and I had an emotional  exchange, I was so uncomfortable with the discord between us, that I readily accepted blame.  My people-pleasing tendencies took center stage.  I just didn’t want my spouse to be mad at me.  And, quite frankly, I don’t think I even stopped to consider what my part in the exchange was.  

I’ve since learned to think before jumping in with an apology.  I do a short replay in my mind of the conversation to get clear as to whether or not I owe an apology and specifically what I said or did that warrants one. When I do apologize, my words are much more meaningful because I take full responsibility for the specifics of my behavior. Sometimes, I still feel a little uncomfortable waiting until I am clear before apologizing because I want to fix it now. However, an apology that is sincere is much more meaningful than an apology that is designed only to clear the air.  The latter always falls short of its goal. The negative energy in the air is not dispelled by insincerity; rather, it is fed by it.  

As for the table leg that I kicked, it didn’t hurt the table a bit, but my toe was sore for days. Hmm.  It would make much more sense to apologize to myself.  As for the people I step over in the concert hall, I now say “thank you” as I step over them.  This is a more appropriate communication to people who are making room for me as I progress to my assigned seat.  “Excuse me” me is also a polite thing to say; however, I rather like the more positive feel of “thank you.”

Are my apologies always appropriate?  Are they sincere?

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