I sat down at my desk and contemplated the task I’d been asked to do. I had never once done this particular task before, and had never even seen an example of what it would look like.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “But… I’ve never done this before and am really lost.”
“I’m sorry,” I said twenty minutes later, when direction or information was unclear.
“I’m sorry,” I said again, when my computer decided to not behave properly while someone was trying to do something with it.
I don’t know at what point in my day I realized I had said it in seemingly every interaction – the new task? the unclear instruction? the seemingly “foolish” question that I’d have no way to answer unless I asked – but something tripped in my brain. Why am I sorry? What do I have to be sorry about? And why am I “sorry” so much?
Something did happen that day that warranted an apology – something that was 100% preventable. I was more than willing to offer it. But why do I (and so many others) feel the need to apologize for asking questions, needing help, not knowing something?
Maybe this is half the battle. Knowing that you’re habitually doing something and being able to stop it because you’re thinking about it. There is no need to apologize for a lack of knowledge, for requesting clarification, for needing a hand sometimes. Apologizing for such things can actually cheapen the apology for things that we should be sorry for – for hurting someone, for making a mistake that we knew better than to make, for intentionally (or not) greatly inconveniencing people with no way to reciprocate their generosity.
So, I’m sorry, world… I’m putting myself on notice. Apologies are for important things – harm, negligence, hurtfulness, etc. They are not for being human, not to be used when I don’t know the answers, not to be trotted out as a cover for uncertainty. Because I shouldn’t be sorry for those things, either.
And I won’t be, any more.
Marcie Brock said:
I remember realizing I wasn’t sorry my boss wasn’t in – she just wasn’t in. I stopped that day and have never looked back. GREAT accomplishment and help for others in the same boat. Thanks for this post!
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