The Art of Saying “I’m Sorry”
Have you ever noticed how some people never say, “I’m Sorry”? It is something that really bothers me, and I have recognized it as an emotional trigger for me due to my childhood. I mean, it is just proper manners, right? We are all taught as children, when you do something wrong you should say “I’m sorry”.
There is so much power in an apology. It may feel vulnerable because that means you are admitting you did something wrong, but that is the power in it. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We may hurt someone’s feeling without realizing it or we may look back on situations and think we could have handled something completely different. That is GROWTH!
I write this because I have had to put up some hard boundaries this last year and one of them is around situations where people do not admit guilt or do not have the accountability to say, “I’m Sorry”. What’s worse is in today’s age, the situation can be gaslighted on social media, so it ends up as a double down effect on the person who feels victimized. This is where I allow myself to feel disappointment and I recognize why my boundary is needed for my mental health.
Setting boundaries does not mean I hold anger. Setting boundaries means I am creating space for my own mental health. It also means I am holding accountability for the other person. I wasn’t taught setting boundaries growing up and this is a life lesson that has been hard for me to learn. I am not lowering my vibration by setting boundaries, I am raising it.
Back to why someone would not say I am sorry, for causing physical, mental or emotional distress to someone else. Psychology Today writes:
Why Apologies Threaten Non-Apologists
For non-apologists, saying "I’m sorry" carries psychological ramifications that run far deeper than the words themselves imply; it elicits fundamental fears (either conscious or unconscious) they desperately want to avoid:
Admissions of wrongdoing are incredibly threatening for non-apologists because they have trouble separating their actions from their character. If they did something bad, they must be bad people; if they were neglectful, they must be fundamentally selfish and uncaring; if they were wrong, they must be ignorant or stupid, etc. Therefore, apologies represent a major threat to their basic sense of identity or self-esteem.
Apologizing might open the door to guilt for most of us, but for non-apologists, it can instead open the door to shame. While guilt makes us feel bad about our actions, shame makes non-apologists feel bad about their selves—who they are—which is what makes shame a far more toxic emotion than guilt.
While most of us consider apologies as opportunities to resolve interpersonal conflict, non-apologists may fear their apology will only open the floodgates to further accusations and conflict. Once they admit to one wrongdoing, surely the other person will pounce on the opportunity to pile on all the previous offenses for which they refused to apologize as well.
Non-apologists fear that by apologizing, they would assume full responsibility and relieve the other party of any culpability. If arguing with a spouse, for example, they might fear an apology would exempt the spouse from taking any blame for a disagreement, despite the fact that each member of a couple has at least some responsibility in most arguments.
By refusing to apologize, non-apologists are trying to manage their emotions. They are often comfortable with anger, irritability, and emotional distance, and experience emotional closeness and vulnerability to be extremely threatening. They fear that lowering their guard even slightly will make their psychological defenses crumble and open the floodgates to a well of sadness and despair that will pour out of them, leaving them powerless to stop it. They might be correct. However, they are incorrect in assuming that exhibiting these deep and pent-up emotions (as long as they get support, love, and caring when they do—which fortunately, is often the case) will be traumatic and damaging. Opening up in such a way is often incredibly therapeutic and empowering, and it can lead them to experience far deeper emotional closeness and trust toward the other person, significantly deepening their relationship satisfaction.
Check in with yourself. Are you someone who has a hard time apologizing? I had to apologize a few months ago for a situation I could have handled better. When I looked back on it, I recognize how hurt the other party was by the decision. I apologized with no expectation of the other person responding. When she did, I realized how healthy she was to except my apology and it allowed both us to grow and heal.
Another example is my relationship with my fiancé. We both show up in less than perfect ways sometimes. Again, this is our human condition…no one is perfect! I can attest to how amazing it feels when you walk away, and the other person comes back and apologizes. This opens the door to communicate and take a step forward towards a healthy relationship.
When you are unwilling to apologize, you are hurting your own personal growth. You are limiting your communication and causing emotional distress and trauma in yourself and to some extent those around you. “I’m sorry” can be therapeutic and is one of the most powerful forms of healing that we can tap into at any time on our own.
- Amanda (@luxhealingarts ✨)