I have learned a lot about myself over the past two years. More than I had learned in all of the twenty one-ish years prior to that combined. One of the biggest and most recent discoveries I have made is that my most used four-letter-word isn’t a four letter word at all. It is five letters and that word is “sorry”. I have spent a good majority of my life apologizing.
Sometimes because I caused someone some amount of pain or because I made a mistake. Those kinds of apologies have been and always will be warranted and necessary. Those kinds of apologies mend relationships, alleviate someone else’s pain, allow me to own and accept my mistakes.
There are the kinds of apologies that are just simply me being overly and ridiculously polite. For example, I find myself apologizing to inanimate objects when I run into them and hurt myself. I apologize to random people in the grocery store who run into me because obviously I was in their way and saying excuse me was too much work. These seemingly harmless apologies are usually just that, harmless. Pointless really, but they cause no harm.
But then there are the apologies I am famous for; the kind that belittle and demean me as a person. These are the apologies I give for being who and how I am. These are the apologies I am making a conscious effort to do away with. I am constantly apologizing for having anxiety and for the attacks it creates. I am constantly apologizing for wanting to talk about the things I am feeling with the people I love too often. I am always apologizing for texting people more than the socially acceptable amount of times in a row. I am constantly apologizing for loving too hard, too much, too strongly, for wanting to show the people I love how much I love them. I am constantly apologizing to people when they hurt me. This last one is the most important one.
So here’s the story: Someone hurts you, a friend, a family member, or a significant other. You tell them that they have hurt you expecting an apology in return. Instead, they make you feel bad that you are even telling them that you are hurt. I mean, how could you be so selfish? It’s bad enough that you are in pain but now you have to make them feel bad too? How inconsiderate of you. And so now, you apologize. Now you are distraught. You are so sorry that you have hurt them. And you know, if they don’t think they’ve hurt you, maybe they didn’t after all. Maybe it is you who is overreacting and you should probably console them now for making them go through the pain you have put them through in accusing them of hurting you.
But wait. See what just happened? Now you are giving the apology you should be getting and they have neither acknowledged that they have hurt you nor apologized for having done so. But you feel like something happened just then right? Like something was resolved? Now here’s the part that I love. Nothing happened. You are in the same place that you started in and they have still hurt you. Only now, they’ve hurt you and they’ve made you feel bad about it. Funny how that worked huh?
I do this. I do this every day and I am apalled at how it has become almost second nature for me to fall into that place with someone. I apologize to people because they have caused me pain and I feel bad because they feel bad about having hurt me. Well, not anymore.
I have learned two things from discovering the “sorry” word. One, do not ever ever ever apologize for who you are. If someone else doesn’t like who you are, if you come on too strongly, if you annoy them, if they don’t accpet you as is, then who cares? Chances are, if you really think about it, you don’t like who they are as a person either if they act that way with you. And here’s the best part: that is perfectly, 100% okay. Everyone will never like everyone. That’s just the way the world turns, darling.
The second, and to me, far more important thing, is that when someone hurts you they do not get to tell you that they didn’t. They do not get to say that you are wrong. If someone hurts you, they owe you an apology for having hurt you even if they didn’t do it intentionally or knowingly. No one gets to tell you when you are and are not hurt.
So from now on, I would like you to pay attention. I would like you to think twice before using that five letter word and to think three times before letting someone weasel their way out of using it to you.