I’m sorry. That doesn’t seem difficult to say, does it? Yet, most people are reluctant, even hesitant, to say they’re sorry and apologize, even when the situation warrants it. And why is that? As reasonable, rational people, should apologizing be so difficult? For most people, it certainly is.
I found myself thinking about this recently, when I had a small confrontation with my 5-year old son. I had woken and got my first caffeine of the morning with the intention of sitting and enjoying it before having to deal with matters of the day. My son was playing nicely on the floor with his baby brother, Alex. When I came down to the floor to check on the baby, Nathan and I got into a playful wrestling match. Once it was done, I started to stand, but he was holding firmly to my leg.
When I finally convinced him to let go, I stood and took the first step towards my morning coffee. He grabbed my leg once again, shifting my balance and forcing me to bring my foot down hard to stabilize myself. I very nearly stepped on the baby’s leg. I was not impressed. I sternly told him never to grab someone’s leg when they were walking as he could have tripped me and harmed the baby.
He took direct offence to this, and started pouting. Without getting into unnecessary details, the interaction ended with Nathan being sent to his room for talking back and being the basic little brat he occasionally enjoys being (I blame his damned cartoons!) I instructed him not to move from there until he was ready to apologize and be good.
It took well over an hour before he finally emerged from his room and presented me with a scribbled piece of construction paper. The scribbling apparently was a written apology, which he delivered verbally as well. (Doesn’t it tug your heart strings?) I freed him from his imprisonment and as an afterthought, I apologized as well…
Did I do anything wrong? Did I need to apologize? Maybe not. But I got angry with my child. I raised my voice and I doled out punishment. And I was sorry for both of those things. So I voiced as much. We exchanged a hug and he carried on with his day. I’ll admit that I felt better for apologizing.
So, if it makes one feel better, why does it seem so hard to do? According to an article posted by PsychologyToday, people who fall under the category of “non-apologists” will avoid or refuse apologizing, even in the most required of circumstances. The reasons for this may include trying to separate actions from character, feeling shame from having to apologize, fear of further conflict and assuming full responsibility for the situation.
But even if you’re not a non-apologist, saying that you’re sorry, even when you may be responsible, can be difficult for most people. For some, apologizing can be difficult because it makes them feel vulnerable or humiliated. For others, it can be a matter of self-image as apologizing for something can make a person feel inadequate or lacking in something, since apologizing can often be interpreted as assuming fault or responsibility. Even if that’s not necessarily the case.
Saying that your sorry can be the easiest thing that is so hard to do. But there’s no denying that there would likely be less suffering in the world if we could all swallow our pride and simply say “I’m sorry” when it is asked of us. Whether wrong or not, sometimes it can mean all the difference. Maybe even to yourself. ☯