Oh my gosh, excuse me—I am so sorry... I'm sorry, but, I don't need this. My son must've grabbed it—I'm sorry. (Meanwhile, the son is hiding a different candy bar under the bananas. The clerk definitely scanned it.) ...They don't have any more of those separator thingies, sorry!... I'm sorry, I forgot my club card. I'm sorry, I actually do need cash back, I'm sorry... Oh, and can you add on a bag of ice? I'm really sorry... (Phone rings) Hello. Oh my God, I forgot to call him! I will do it right now, I am so, so (yep, you guessed it) SORRY.
These are just a few of the things I overheard and witnessed while standing behind a woman in line at my local grocery store. Just from this short interaction, I now knew five things about this lady:
1) She was a mother to a future con artist. 2) Multitasking was her kryptonite. 3) She had great hair. (Well, she did!) 4) This may have been her first trip to a grocery store. 5) She was really, really, really sorry—about everything.
I am almost positive this woman would have apologized for world hunger if given the platform because, obviously, it was HER fault.
For the love of Barbra Streisand—will someone please eternally forgive this woman so she can live her life?
As ridiculous as this woman's incessant apologies sounded, I could not judge. You see, I am also a recovery sorry-oholic. (I am currently 36 hours clean. I relapsed by asking for celery salt in my Blood Mary instead of on the rim. Don't worry—I am now back on the recovery trail!)
But, seriously—I used to say sorry, like, A LOT.
It was while I was working in a bookstore in NYC that I was first called out on it. I was having a conversation with one of my more reserved co-workers (by conversation I mean me talking and him not telling me to stop), when he interrupted by saying, "You know, you say sorry a lot." He then resumed restocking the metaphysical section (which is totally overlooked—tons of interesting stuff in these shelves) and left me to reflect on his thought.
You know what I did after he said this? I freaking apologized. I said sorry for saying SORRY! This was my rock bottom with apologizing—cue the intervention!
Let's start out by looking at the definition of the word.
sor·ry: 1. feeling distress, especially through sympathy with someone else's misfortune.
Now, let's put it in perspective:
Do you think that lady at the grocery store was really feeling utter distress when she forgot to ask for a bag of ice? Was she really sympathizing with my misfortune of not being able to place a divider between my 6 bottles of wine and her pore-minimizing cream? Maybe she was, but, I really hope not.
If forgetting my free club card that gets me five cents off of my El Pato hot sauce ever results in a case of utter distress, then please feel free to strap me down to a chair and show me countless videos of people with real problems. You know, like contaminated drinking water and arranged marriages at the age of nine—I will happily pay full price for my taco's best friend, thank you very much.
The first definition of this word is not even what bothers me the most. This is because it is a definition that is very necessary. There ARE many times in our lives that we NEED to say it.
Being able to truly sympathize with someone else's misfortunes is one of the most real ways of connecting with those around us. There is never a need to apologize for understanding or being able to relate another's pain. It's what makes us compassionate—it's what makes us human.
It is also relevant when we have actually done something wrong or hurt a person in our lives. I will gladly be the first in line to apologize if I have caused distress in the life of a loved one—including myself! (Note: If you are not on your own list of loved ones then, please, read my other posts—we need to talk.)
We wrong ourselves and others often. It is SO important that we recognize when we do and combat these mistakes with a sincere and meaningful apology. Not doing so will only harbor bitterness and leave you with a bad taste in your mouth when it comes to life in general.
It is the second part of the definition that disturbs me.
sor·ry:2. in a poor or pitiful state or condition.
Here are some synonyms for this version of the word: unfortunate, unhappy, wretched, unlucky, shameful, regrettable, awful.
So, when you are not using the term in a way to show true sympathy or to offer a meaningful apology for causing distress, do you know what you are doing? You are saying: I AM THESE THINGS.
Choosing this perspective when I use the word is what helped me to commit to stop being a "sorry" person.
For my mother, instilling in our minds that we are what we say we are was as important as using our pleases and thank yous. What you say is what you get, be careful what you wish for, speak it and you shall see it—the list of ways she put it can go on and on.
So, when I looked at what I was speaking over myself when I was overusing the word (or when I was just saying it out of habit) stopped me in my sorry tracks.
Do I believe that I am daily an unfortunate, unhappy, wretched, unlucky, shameful, regrettable or awful person?
Nor do I want to be! So, why am I speaking these ugly words over my life?
As women, it is unfortunately in our nature to apologize—to say "sorry" whenever possible. The majority of us are natural born caretakers, soothers, comforters, and healers of hurt—emotionally and physically. This is one of the most beautiful things about us! So, why has society made these powerful characteristics synonymous with such a powerless word?
What are we really apologizing for?
Please, let's be more aware of the way—and how often—we choose to use this word.
Also, know this: Saying that you are sorry can make you the strongest person in a room. It takes great courage and humility to admit our wrongs!
However, if we continue to overuse and construe the meaning of this word, then people will start to believe that we do owe them an apology—that we actually need their forgiveness to contently resume our day.
Contributing to this way of thinking—this expectation from the society we live in—is the only thing we really need to feel sorry about.
I used to apologize as a way of belittling myself—to ensure it was easier and more comfortable for others to be in my presence—and, for that, I am truly sorry.
If we stop apologizing for what is out of our control, we just might discover that we have more of it than we ever could have imagined.
So, are you sorry you read this? I sure hope not—because I definitely do not plan on apologizing. I hope you have hit your quota for the day, too.