October 26, 2016

Two Powerful Words that can Mend Relationships (& How I Learned to Say Them).

Wikimedia Commons

Dragging an apology out of people can be challenging.

We all hurt people, and that’s okay—at the end of the day, we’re only human.

The problem isn’t that we make mistakes. The real issue is not admitting when we do.

I can relate to this as I was once a person who was adamant about not apologizing. Saying “I’m sorry” felt terrible and demeaning, even when I was consciously aware of my wrong-doing.

I learned to break this habit only when I was faced with non-apologizers myself. I understood how burdensome it is to deal with people who refuse to admit they are wrong. Not apologizing is a double-edged sword that is hurtful for both the wronged and the one who caused harm.

So, I changed.

Saying “I’m sorry” when I’m wrong is now my favorite practice. If you’re currently reading this, I reckon you’re hoping it becomes yours, too.

As an ex non-apologizer, I’ve found three issues that keep us from making this change:

  • Understanding why we refuse to apologize.
  • Recognizing the importance and power of apologizing.
  • Learning how to apologize.

To solve any problem, we must first understand its roots. Not saying “I’m sorry” might be the result of the following:

1. Pride.
Not admitting that we’re wrong has a lot to do with pride, and human pride is extensive—it threatens our self-esteem. Saying “I’m sorry” comes with a whole lot of vulnerability and sadly, we believe that being vulnerable means being weak.

2. Shattering our identity.
We have all created an image of ourselves that we furiously protect. Most of these images are based on perfection and righteous behavior. Consequently, admitting our mistakes shatters this identity. Apologizing forces us to look at ourselves in the same way other do.

3. Guilt.
Apologizing strengthens our sense of guilt—and nobody likes feeling guilty. Guilt makes us feel bad about ourselves, which is why it’s easier to point the finger at others than to do so at ourselves.

We’re too prideful to apologize, we don’t want to shatter our identity, and we don’t like to experience guilt. In other words, we’ve convinced ourselves that saying “I’m sorry” leaves us powerless.

But these two words are full of power. When said from the heart, “I’m sorry” has the ability to transform mere words into a prayer for both the wronged and the one who caused harm. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t apologize, but maybe, if we recognized its impact, we would do it more often.

Through apologizing, we can alleviate the agony of the person who is wronged—we soothe their pain. Not only do we decrease their suffering, we also decrease ours. It can feel like taking a weight off our chest.

I’m also convinced that apologizing has abundant respect at its core. When we say the words “I’m sorry,” we are also saying “I respect you.” It also means that we respect ourselves enough to let go of our identity and pride.

Last but not least, to take responsibility for our own mistakes just feels good. I used to refuse to apologize because holding myself accountable felt like a burden, but I was wrong. The biggest burden was keeping the apology to myself, instead of expressing it.

So how do we apologize?

1. Set your intention.
Who are you doing it for? Why are you doing it? Know that you are doing it for yourself as much as you are doing it for others—apologizing lessens the suffering of all parties. Furthermore, make sure you are sincerely saying it out of remorse (and not just to satisfy the person whom you wronged).

2. Shift your perspective.
We must learn that saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t make us less than who we are—it helps us become better. It doesn’t increase guilt, it alleviates it. It doesn’t make us weak, it makes us stronger and more respectful. It doesn’t cause us to go low, it raises us higher.

3. Check your ego.
When we refuse to apologize, our ego is basically running the show. Our ego loathes being wrong, weak, or guilty. It thinks it’s always right and will do its best not to be perceived otherwise. Put your ego aside and speak from within.

4. Think of others.
Perhaps we simply don’t like to say we were wrong. But, what if admitting it could eradicate another human being’s suffering? Saying that we’re sorry has the ability to mending relationships.

5. Words are not enough.
Words are important, but they’re not enough. Words must always be backed up by actions. We shouldn’t just claim that we’re sorry—we should also show others that we are.


Author: Elyane Youssef

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Nicole Cameron

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