I remember the first time I said “I’m sorry” and truly meant it. I didn’t want to say it, but I knew I was in the wrong and that it was the right thing to do. I knew that if I apologized I would be making someone else would feel better, so I did it; I apologized. I remember how uncomfortable and vulnerable I felt. As a teenager, I remember thinking that my head and heart would explode and that I would no longer be the person I knew; I would become weak and a pushover. I would lose my identity and become a target for ridicule. But I knew it was the right thing to do.
Two days later, I apologized to another person. Two apologies over three days. I admit, it started to feel good.
I realized that after apologizing, I didn’t lose myself. My head stayed on, my heart kept beating and I think I became stronger from the experience. Learning to say “I’m sorry” became an act of strength. It proved to me that I wasn’t as stubborn as I thought I was, and that I could sympathize and empathize by putting myself into someone else’s position. I realized that if I wanted people to apologize to me, perhaps I should start by first learning to sincerely apologize to others. Key word: sincere. It’s not enough to lightly brush off someone by a quick and short apology, although of course some apologies need not be too long or drawn out. However, it is important to look someone in the eyes, or speak to them softly over the phone and say the words, “I’m sorry.” Not, “It’s no biggie”. Not, “I’m sorry you feel that way”. Not, “yeah, sorry.” For an apology to be genuinely given and accepted, each party must take a moment to hear what the other person is saying. Each person must take ownership for their part in the situation. Each person must also be willing to let go of the situation after the apology.
Admitting I was wrong became empowering to me. Admitting I was wrong showed me that I was able to bend my personal power to make someone else feel understood all while retaining my inner strength/power. Admitting I am wrong has helped me mend relationships or to clarify and communicate better. Owning up to my mistakes allowed me to take ownership and accountability for myself. Because up until this point, I was only familiar with apologizing just for the sake of getting my way. But apologizing just to get your way is not right, nor is it healthy. It’s a form of manipulation. Apologizing to help mend a situation, to acknowledge wrongdoing, to make amends and build trust with someone is not manipulation. It is a powerful form of communication.
Learning to apologize in a genuine way opened more doors for me than I ever thought possible. People began to trust me more, and I began to trust myself more too. If I could encourage anyone reading this to say those magical words, “I’m sorry”, we would generate a whirlwind of understanding and peace. I strongly believe people would be less defensive, less stubborn, less misunderstood and less sad. We would all begin to feel empowered, strong and in control. Saying “I’m sorry” does not make a person weak, rather it makes them strong!