“Sorry” seems to be the hardest word
Yesterday I went for a walk with a guy friend and we discussed a vexing situation I found myself in recently. I explained how I was wronged; how I had done wrong; how I apologized — and yet, the perpetrator of the original infraction has yet to utter those two little words: “I’m sorry.”
Now, this walking buddy is like a brother to me. And if we know anything about brothers, it’s that they live to give us a hard time. What would we do without them?;) My brothers both live far away, but this friend fills the gap nicely. And he’s definitely not afraid to tell me when I’m acting like an idiot. But this time, he was in complete agreement with me. (Which is so rare, it’s probably why I had to write this article:)
The perp in my particular situation is male. I very openly told him, “All I want from you is an apology.” And he was incapable of giving it. As Elton says: “It’s sad. So sad.”
It’s also shocking.
He made excuses, he played the victim, he called me sweetheart (no thank you). He argued we were both “better than this”. (Which I already know. That wasn’t the issue at hand.) He blamed technology. (How much better would we be as a society if we just took Responsibility?!) He did everything but apologize. And he’s not the first man I’ve met that struggles with these words. It got me thinking:
Why is it SO hard for (some) men to apologize?
My buddy and I hypothesized it’s because — for centuries, men have generally been the ones relied upon to keep the family safe and provided for. For a man to admit he doesn’t know something, might put his family at risk. For him to “seem wrong”, by apologizing, he might have lost wages (or worse) and not been able to provide for his loved ones. These are legit, if not outdated, arguments. Gentlemen, allow me to help lighten your load, if I may.
Here’s what we Know today:
- No one knows everything.
- Therefore, no one is right all the time.
- Because of this, it’s alright to need help sometimes. Everyone does.
If you disagree with these statements — I‘m sorry.
Assuming you’re still reading, I want to tell you: it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” As a dancer, I’ve seen instructors make crazy crap up when they don’t know an answer to a question. I get it. I’ve taught group classes for 15 years. To stand in front of 20, 60, or 360+ people and utter the words “I don’t know” is terrifying…if we let it be.
I posit there’s strength in being able to admit you don’t know something. We already know there’s honesty in it. Why not embrace the not knowing and say either:
“I’ll have to look into that and get back to you.”
“Hmm, that’s a great question. I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I would say…” then work it out logically, out loud. I use this method on the dance floor and it’s fun. If someone asks something I don’t know, I use what I do know to deduce what I think the answer could be (after I’ve admitted, “I’m not sure…”). Then I encourage my students to try out my, and their, theories and see which one looks and feels best in their bodies. It works like a charm!
I believe that makes for a better teacher/coach/human — not a worse one. Because when we can admit we don’t know everything: we acknowledge the possibility we can make mistakes. And here’s why it kills me when I encounter someone who can’t apologize:
The only way it makes sense Not to apologize is if you legitimately think you did nothing wrong. And if you think that — I’ve got news for you — and I mean this in the most loving way possible: you’re absolutely wrong.
Everyone Makes Mistakes! It’s usually not a big deal. Unless you handle it poorly by not making amends. So, for you to not apologize means you must think you’re perfect. Just to let you know: that’s infuriating to those of us humans, in the trenches, trying to figure this thing called Life out.
I’ve taught enough couples to know when something goes wrong, there’s a little error on both sides. Even I, who have been dancing for 20 yrs, can make mistakes when dancing with a brand new student who doesn’t know forward from backward. I can anticipate, or set expectations too high, or fail in making that student feel safe to create and mess up and be themselves. If something goes wrong, it’s not all on the beginner. I’m far from perfect. So are you. We’re human.
I realize (after reflection on how we can all dance toward Love instead of away from it) there’s another reason people have trouble apologizing. It’s because they’re hurt. And hurt people hurt people. One may still be too wrapped up in his/her own pain to reach a healing hand towards another.
I guess, in this situation, what we don’t realize yet is: helping another heal can begin our own healing process. Hmm. I need to breathe that in for a moment.
I’ve been known to run a little hot. I’m a Scorpio. I do my best. But after I’ve burned the place down (more on that in my next article) I do apologize, and try to apply adequate salve.
My “wasband”, though usually calm, cool, and collected, was not great at telling me he was sorry while we were married. Since we’ve been separated, he’s surprised me with some sincere and wonderful apologies, completely out of the blue.
Guys, I know sometimes we’re hard to apologize to. Do it anyway. You’ll hopefully be surprised at what happens next. (Because ladies are also reading this, realizing we have some fault in the situation, and might just be preparing their apologies this very moment.)
Yes, you still have to apologize even if you think we’re overreacting. Because here’s the thing: we don’t get to tell someone else when they’re “being ridiculous”, or “shouldn’t be hurt by that”, or anything of the sort. Everyone is entitled to their feelings. (Unless they feel they did nothing wrong, then they’re shorting everyone involved;) I need to remember this as a parent.
After all, it is one of the first things we learn in kindergarten. If you hurt someone’s feelings: _____________.
Now, you might say, “But I didn’t mean to hurt her.” Ever heard this gem:
“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
Often times, intentions and results don’t exactly align. So you made a joke she took personally. That’s on her, right? No. It’s on both of you. You can apologize for making a joke in bad taste. She can apologize if she overreacted.
The bottom line is: there’s hurt. There’s pain. And you have two choices:
Start the healing by admitting you could’ve handled it differently. Yes, say the words “I’m sorry” and say them like you mean it.
Hold to your affectionately named Tonka Truck, Ego, while you scream, “Mine!”
Get the drift?
Now, if you’d rather lose the friendship than apologize — your choice. I just think it’s a lonely way to go through life.
Heck, think what good it could do America if the current leader, and the people who support(ed) him, would say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” It wouldn’t make things all flowers and rainbows, but it would be a wonderful first step toward healing.
We’re not perfect. No one has to be. But if you’re reading this, go for that gold star. It’s so shiny.