Thank You! (I’m Not Sorry)

Hi, I’m Carrie, and I’m an apology-holic.

It’s one of the most evident downsides of not feeling good enough.  I’m constantly apologizing, and not for things that I should apologize for.  I say, “I’m sorry,” more times in a day than I can count.  When my 5-year-old can’t sleep and crawls into my bed at 2:00 a.m., disrupting my slumber, I tell him that I’m sorry that he can’t sleep.  (As if it’s my fault?  As if he isn’t actually disturbing me?)  When I wake up at 6:17 a.m., having planned on waking up at 6:15 a.m., I apologize to my husband for ignoring the alarm, even if he’s been awake and watching “Mike and Mike” since 5:30 a.m.  And thus starts the day.

I apologize for traffic and weather.   I say, “I’m sorry, but…” before I ever even think about saying “no” to a person about anything.  I’ve said “I’m sorry” before assigning tasks to my employees, weakening the importance of the tasks I’ve assigned.  I try not to, but I’ve found myself apologizing for giving my sons very well-deserved consequences for their misbehavior.  The number of times I’ve apologized to my husband could fill a thousand blog posts, so I won’t even try to outline them here.

The word “apologize” is defined as:  “to make an apology or excuse for some fault, insult, failure or injury.”  When I apologize, I am admitting that something was my fault, that I’ve insulted someone, that I’ve failed in some way or that I’ve injured someone.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Apologizing is a very mature and responsible thing to do in many cases, and a sincere apology can go a long way toward repairing and building healthy relationships.  Some people have a problem ever saying, “I’m sorry,” and that’s a problem in itself.  Yet, it’s also a problem to apologize too frequently.  Saying “I’m sorry,” too often lessens its value, weakens its importance and hurts both the apologizer and the intended recipient.   Plus, apologizing too often diminishes the sincerity and worth of true apologize that are needed and offered for true transgressions.

And here’s another thing.  It’s kind of narcissistic.  In apologizing for everything, am I in fact saying that I’m responsible for everything?  Am I acting as if the world revolves around me, and as if I’m involved in all those acts that are in fact outside of my control?  That’s a sad truth and a hard one to admit to, but saying “I’m sorry,” does make me feel a little bit good.  It makes me feel in control, but not in a healthy way.

My husband apologizes too often, too.  I know his intention is to smooth the way and make me feel better about his real-or-imagined transgression.  Sometimes, I appreciate it.  Many times, though, it makes me feel guilty.  If he’s apologizing for being five minutes late to dinner, that seems excessive, and it makes me think that maybe I’m being a little too hard on if he feels the need to apologize for a few minutes of delay.  He’s apologizing, but suddenly I feel like the controlling, obsessive, angry wife.

When we apologize for something that doesn’t warrant an apology, we are in fact apologizing for not being good enough.  We are holding ourselves to an unattainable standard that we have failed to meet.  Instead of recognizing the reality of our humanity, we apologize for our imperfections.  Despite our good intentions, it doesn’t make things better.

So, I’ve started a new tactic.  Instead of automatically starting sentences with, “I’m sorry,” I’m replacing it with “Thank you!”

Here’s an example so you can see what I mean.

Husband:  “Hey, our little man woke up at 3:00 a.m. so I cuddled him a little bit.  Do you think he’s sick?”

Me:  “I’m sorry I didn’t hear him!  I’m sorry you had to wake up at 3:00. You didn’t have to do that!  I don’t know if he’s sick – I’m sorry if I missed the signs!”

REVISED WITH A THANK YOU:

Husband:  “Hey, our little man woke up at 3:00 a.m. so I cuddled him a little bit.  Do you think he’s sick?”

Me:  “Thanks for cuddling with him!  I bet he loved that.  Let’s check his temperature.”

It’s such a little change, but such a huge difference!  Instead of making my husband feel guilty, and feeling anxious and guilty myself, I expressed my gratitude, making my hubby feel good about his actions.  It made me feel good, too.

This tactic has so many uses.  I can thank my friend for waiting for me at the park for our playdate instead of apologizing for being two minutes late due to the traffic, which obviously I could not have controlled.  I can thank my relatives for being flexible and heading to the bowling alley instead of Pikes Peak on a rainy day.  I can empower and thank my employees in advance for appreciating the importance of a given project instead of allowing them to view me as a wretched taskmaster.  It is a tactic that can be used at home, at work, at the grocery store and pretty much everywhere.

I don’t think I’m going to change my compulsive apologetic behavior overnight, but now I have a real way to combat my self-destructive instinct … with gratitude.

Thank you.  I’m not sorry.

copy-of-thank-you

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Laura says:

    Love this! I’m going to start incorporating your thank you replacement idea.

    Like

  2. This is a real truth for me. I even apologize when it is not my fault because honestly I don’t like contention and I know taking responsibility, even when it’s not my fault, alleviates contention.

    Like

    1. Oh yes, I do the same. I’d rather smooth the waters and take the blame than have anyone upset in any way.

      Like

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