For many years I was the queen of apologies.
I apologized to diffuse tense situations, I apologized to try to move on and not actually take responsibility for my actions, and I apologized for things that weren’t my fault. It became a knee-jerk reaction and pretty soon I didn’t even realize how often I did it.
I really had two types of sorry. There were the apologies listed above, which served to make me feel better but often had nothing to do with me and then there were apologies that were tied to behaviors in active addiction, but really also just served to make me feel better. Basically, most of my apologies revolved around my own feelings and had nothing to do with anyone else.
Apologizing for things that weren’t my fault is an entire post for another day (synopsis: don’t do it). Today’s thinking out loud focus is on the latter type of apology — the empty one.
When I worked in admin, I dealt with a lot of patients. I worked at both a chiropractic and PT clinic, which involved many appointments throughout the day. At both places, there were patients who were regularly late, so much so that we would have to tell them their appointment was 30 min earlier than it actually was so that they would show up on time.
Those people frustrated me more than anything. It was rude, disrespectful, and by the 345873487th time I had heard “sorry,” I wanted to let them know how that word had actually started to enrage me rather than its intended placation.
Recovery not only taught me that I needed to significantly reduce the amount of apologizing I was doing, but that truly being sorry meant changing my behavior.
It wasn’t enough anymore to tell people that I was sorry and continue to behave the same way. The more you use sorry as a way to escape consequences, the emptier the word becomes.
- I apologize to my family and friends for lying, stealing, and manipulating them by doing the complete opposite.
- I apologize to my heart by using affirmations, by taking care of my inner child, and by practicing self-care.
- I apologize to my body for all the misuse I put it through by trying to live a healthier lifestyle filled with exercise and healthy eating (most of the time).
- I apologize to society by speaking out about addiction and mental health, paying taxes (ugh), showing up to work, and giving back when I can.
- I apologize to Neil for leaving my clothes all over the place by picking them up and putting them away 75% of the time (hey, no one’s perfect).
The next time you find yourself apologizing more than once for the same action, remember that apologies are actions. They’re not simply a word to absolve you of responsibility. Take some time to recognize the pattern and actively find a way to change it.
It’s not always enough to change your behavior once. It’s about consistently showing up and not repeating the same things that cause you to have to apologize in the first place.