When I was around 12 or 13 years old, I can distinctly remember having a conversation with my grandfather, that somehow ended with the words “I’m sorry.”
It was probably a meaningless conversation along the lines of…
“Did you finish eating the watermelon?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Did you enjoy that book?”
“I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
“Did you and Grandma find something to wear to the picnic?”
“Sorry, I didn’t see anything I liked.”
While I don’t remember what the conversation was about, I do remember saying “I’m sorry,” and him telling me to have a seat. After I sat, he asked me, “What on earth are you sorry for?”
“I’m not sure. It just seemed like something I should say.”
“Why would you apologize for something if you did nothing; or if you did, it didn’t even cause anyone to be upset?”
“I don’t know.”
“You need to stop apologizing for something you didn’t do. It’s one thing if you’ve genuinely caused a problem or pain to someone, but it’s another if you apologize for nothing. I’ve noticed that you say ‘I’m sorry’ for just about everything. And when you always apologize for something that’s not your fault, well, people start to think it is your fault after a while. It’s a “cry wolf” sort of thing. Stop saying you’re sorry all the time!”
I think about this a lot. I mean, A LOT. Because, even though that conversation took place decades ago, it’s still something I do, apologizing for…. who knows what.
And I don’t know why.
I don’t know why I say ‘I’m sorry’ when I’ve really done nothing to be sorry for.
I don’t know why I say ‘I’m sorry’ when I’m really not.
And to be honest, I’m tired of saying “I’m sorry.”
I feel like I apologize for all sorts of things, the least of which is just being me.
I’ve apologized for staying home to be with my kids. I’ve also apologized for not having enough time with each of them. I’ve apologized for not having a “real” paying job, even though staying home probably was and is the most important thing I’ll ever do with my life. Still… no pay means my job wasn’t exactly…. important. Right?
I’m sorry if you think that.
See, there I go apologizing again!
I’ve apologized for not having the house clean for visitors. And then apologized because friends whose houses are messier than mine think I’m too clean.
I’ve said “sorry” for cooking meals for my family that are somehow too healthy, and then because I made something with carbs and fat and definitely not healthy, offered an excuse for that in the next breath!
I’ve apologized when I beat people at games or playing sports, even if I won fair and square. Like when I made the cheerleading squad in 8th grade and one of my friends didn’t. Despite the fact that I had practiced for 2 hours every night for a month before tryouts, I felt compelled to say “I’m sorry” that I made it but she didn’t.
I’ve made apologies to others for my political views, even when they were solicited.
Because at one time I drove a big SUV, I said mea culpa because I was (apparently) a gas guzzler. Never mind that I had three kids, lived on a road that wasn’t cleared when it snowed, and needed the 4WD with muscle to make it up and down the hills without crashing my family into a tree.
I apologize to telemarketers as I’m hanging up on them.
I’ve asked forgiveness when I’ve (rightly) held my place in lines at the bank, grocery, or Target, but because someone gave me the evil eye, I got flustered and offered “I’m sorry, but I’m in a hurry.” As if my time is any less important than theirs.
I’ve apologized when my football team beat the team of family and friends’ favorite teams, but why? I didn’t have anything to do with with either the win or loss.
I’ve apologized to my family and friends for being a “bad” mom/wife/daughter/friend, when in fact, I’m really just human and have bad days like everyone else.
99.9% of the time I’m the first in the room to apologize. Even when it isn’t my fault. The other day, I was upset over something someone had done that really hurt my feelings, and in talking about it with them, I told them I needed to hear an apology from them. Instead, when faced with the truth of their actions, they got defensive and lashed out at me. So, what did I do because they were hurt?
You guessed it! I apologized for making them feel bad.
Did I get an apology?
No. None. Nothing.
I got angry. At them, yes, but also at myself, because I take the blame when I really shouldn’t. I understand now what my grandfather meant by the “cry wolf” remark: people almost expect me to apologize even when I’m not at fault. And I’m just really tired of shouldering the blame and apologizing. It makes me feel less than. And I’m not. While I certainly have many many character flaws I can work on, I’m not less than. God didn’t make me less than.
He made me more than.
More than what I was because I’m His. More than I am, because He’s forgiven me. And offered grace. Mercy. Hope. Love. Redemption. More than, because instead of me taking the blame for everything, someone else – Jesus – already took it for me.
Jesus, in the most loving yet horrific way of all, sacrificed his life so He could be the apology in my stead. For all of us. For every thought. Sin. Action. Every blame-filled thing EVER, He carried it so we wouldn’t have to.
So today, I’m making a conscious decision to stop apologizing. Sure, if I throw my husband’s white dress shirt in with the darks and it turns a not-so-manly shade of pink, I’ll apologize. Or if I cut someone off in traffic, I’ll mouth a sincere “I’m sorry” to them. If I genuinely hurt someone by my actions or words (it’s a stretch I know, but it has been known to happen), I will apologize and try to make it right.
But just to say “I’m sorry” when there isn’t a reason? I think I’ll pass from now on.
My grandpa would be proud.