Apologizing can be a tricky thing. As essential and important as I know apologizing is to creating peace, reconciliation, trust, and connection in my relationships, sometimes I don’t want to do it or I do so in a completely inauthentic and manipulative way.
Recently, this has been in my face even more than normal. I’ve noticed my tendency at times to over apologize, to do so with ulterior motives, or even worse I find myself apologizing for who I am in a way that is disrespectful and unkind to myself. None of these really serve me or my relationships, nor are they very authentic.
What makes apologizing in an authentic way difficult or challenging for you?
For many of us, apologizing can seem scary, vulnerable, and even weak. We worry that if we apologize somehow we’ll be admitting we’re wrong (and therefore the other person is right), that it might be used against us in some negative way, or at the very least we are giving up our position of power by apologizing or admitting any fault of our own.
All of these things make sense – based on our ego-based culture and our obsession with blaming others. While understandable and normal, our inability or unwillingness to apologize in an authentic way causes a great deal of pain and conflict in our relationships.
The main reason that we aren’t often all that good or comfortable with authentic apologies is that we operate from a paradigm of shame instead of remorse. Shame, which is a very powerful and oftentimes debilitating emotion (mostly because we don’t like to admit it, own it, or express it), is based on the notion that we are fundamentally flawed (i.e. “bad”). When we relate to ourselves, others, and life from a perspective of shame, it’s always about someone being “right” and someone being “wrong.” Based on this, we end up doing everything we can to protect ourselves from being blamed, while at the same time looking for where we can place our blame and avoid taking responsibility. Sound familiar?
Remorse, on the other hand,is about us realizing that we’ve done or said something we wish we hadn’t. This is not about beating ourselves up, making ourselves wrong, or even blaming ourselves…it’s about taking responsibility in an adult way. When we have a sense of remorse, we can make amends with people in a genuine way, own our impact on others, and apologize without shame or guilt.
Regardless of how conscious, intentional, or deliberate we are in life – it’s inevitable that we will do and say things that in hindsight we regret…and we’ll hurt, upset, or offend the people in our lives from time to time. These situations can be wonderful opportunities for us to grow, deepen our awareness of ourselves and others, and work through conflict in a way that brings us closer together with others and allows our relationships to be more real. An essential piece in this process is our ability to apologize to others in an authentic way.
Here are a few things to think about and do so as to expand your capacity for authentic apologies:
– Tell the truth about how you relate to apologizing. Ask yourself how you feel about apologizing and assess how authentic you are when apologizing to people? Do you over apologize? Do you refuse to apologize? Do you do it just so people won’t be angry with you? What is your relationship to apologizing and how free and genuine are you about it? Answering these questions honestly to yourself will give you important insights into this.
– Look at your life and relationships and see where you can apologize. Take some inventory of your life and relationships, especially where you have some conflict or lack of peace. Where have you been unwilling to take responsibility or apologize in an authentic way? Are you willing to do so for the sake of not only the relationship, but your own peace of mind? As you think about doing this, ask yourself how you can apologize in an authentic way (not simply to get what you want)?
– Alter your relationship to apologizing. As you tell the truth about how you relate to apologizing and look into your life and relationships to see where some apologies may be missing, how can you shift the way you relate to apologizing so that you’re empowered and inspired to do so (not avoidant or manipulative about it)? By changing the way you relate to apologies, you can gain more freedom, comfort, and ease.
This is something that may seem somewhat simple or not all that important on the surface, but it is fundamental to our fulfillment in life and is quite “big” as we take a deeper look at it. The more conscious and aware we are about this, the more growth and transformation can take place. Be kind to yourself, this is not something that comes easy to most of us. But, when we’re willing to really take this on and alter our relationship to apologizing, our relationships and our lives can transform in a profound and positive way.
How do you feel about apologizing? Who do you need to apologize to? How can you apologize in a more authentic way? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.