As children, one of the first things that we are taught to say is, “I am sorry.” So why then, as adults do so many of us find it so difficult to say those three words?
This was the topic of our discussion in my coaching group last night. Is it because by saying, “I am sorry,” we are admitting that we were wrong? Are we afraid that our apology might not be accepted, and therefore we will feel rejection? I was amazed at how difficult all of us found this. Truthfully, I was relieved to know that I was not the only one who found that saying these three words was so hard!
Saying “I am sorry” can make us feel vulnerable. I know that I have trouble saying it. Perhaps it is because I don’t like to admit that I am wrong. I don’t like to admit that I have hurt someone’s feelings. Why do we often find ourselves hurting the people we love the most, and then why is it so hard to tell them we are sorry. Are we afraid that they may want nothing more to do with us? We all know that receiving a genuine apology makes us feel good, so why in turn, can we not give that back?
Saying a quick, “I’m sorry,” when you don’t really feel it seems trite. If you are always quick to apologize, the apology may not seem sincere. Apologizing in the heat of an argument or while you are still emotional doesn’t give you a chance to reflect on it either.
I find it simple to apologize to a stranger in the street when we accidentally bump into each other, but will fester for days when Dave and I have an argument before one of us finally gives in – usually without ever telling each other we are sorry. Is it guilt? Is it shame? What is it that keeps me from saying these words to the people most important to me? I know that by admitting my mistakes and weaknesses, I can move on and learn from them, yet still I find it difficult.
Apologies should not be easy. They are supposed to be genuine and that can be difficult. A good apology can bring forgiveness. It can be cleansing and reviving. Admitting that we were the ones to cause pain, whether purposeful or not, requires us to first acknowledge our own faults. When we are able to do that, it just might not be so hard to say, “I am sorry”.