Friday, July 25, 2014

When to Quit Saying I'm Sorry

Do you apologize too much? If you're a woman, you might. Did this commercial resonate with you, because it sure did with me.  According to a Good Morning America poll, 72% of women think they do apologize too often.

 Now, we can't apologize "too much" for deliberate offenses, but we put an extra burden on ourselves when we say sorry for something beyond our control. What do we communicate when someone bumps into us and we apologize?  "Everything is my fault and my responsibility and you shouldn't feel bad about anything you do."

When my husband gets home and helps me fold clothes, should I apologize for not having completed everything yet, or should I merely say, "thank you"?  Women especially have a tendency to take on more than we can handle--it's on us.  And when someone else drops the ball or is thoughtless, we subconsciously tell ourselves, just try harder, just do more, just leave it up to me.  

Some would say, "well, if you don't apologize," you are just being prideful and shunning responsibility.  But, saying "I'm sorry" too frequently also points back to a pride (not a humiliation as it would seem).  It says, I am responsible to make you happy, comfortable, and heaven forbid, I ever need anything myself. I am here to play nursemaid, servant, referee... god.

Overly-responsible people depend on the ever-present sorry because they feel shame over a lack of perfection.  The situation isn't ideal?  Sorry. I didn't finish that task, even though your expectation was unrealistic? Sorry.  You're mad at me for something I didn't do? Sorry.  The kids are annoying you? Sorry. I didn't know you were allergic to this, even though you didn't tell me?  Sorry. You are upset that Mommy told you no ice cream before supper? Sorry.

My parents used to tell me, "You aren't responsible for how other people react. You do what you are supposed to do and leave their hearts and attitudes up to them."
In a Pyschology Today article, Dr. Breines says we should know where the healthy boundary line is: "Apologize for your role in a negative event, but leave it at that. If you’re someone who likes to make amends and resolve conflict right away, it may be tempting to apologize for more than your share just to smooth everything over. But doing this can lead you to feel resentful and can let others off the hook too easily" (10). 

Knowing what motivates our apology will help us regain a right understanding of our identity, taking ownership of our own faults and no one else's.

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