“Say you’re sorry!” You may have heard those words before, or you may have been the one to say them. Hearing the words “I’m sorry” is often the perceived closing or ending of an argument, but why is apologizing so hard? Because if you don’t say the words, you are actually subconsciously saving yourself from a specific discomfort: embarrassment.
Feeling remorse and having to say that you are sorry for something you have done causes you to feel the embarrassment of your actions.
If you don’t say you are sorry, you save yourself from feeling the unease of embarrassment. This might sound like a “win;” however, when you avoid taking responsibility for your wrongdoings, the alternative to embarrassment is often pride. Pride grows in the place of remorse, and its impact on a relationship can be devastating. Pride drives a wedge between people; it can keep healing from taking place, and it creates distance instead of the desired closeness in a relationship.
Taking responsibility for the harm you have caused by saying the words “I’m sorry” turns anger into appropriate sadness, and it softens people, it opens hearts to empathize, and creates a safe space for understanding and connection.
If you find yourself having a difficult time taking responsibility for your actions and trying to save yourself from embarrassment, consider asking yourself these two questions: 1. Does it look like I did some harm here? 2. Am I trying to avoid feeling embarrassed? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you need to offer an apology.
The concept of apologizing can sound easy, but many of us don’t know how to do it. Stay tuned for part two of this series for tips on how to offer an apology.
An important final note: the reasons we each find it difficult to apologize can be muddy waters to wade, and therapy is a great place to safely investigate and restore the parts of us that are broken down and get in the way of taking responsibility for our actions and sincerely apologizing.
Written by: Lily Scivicque