This week, Anna challenged us to stop apologizing for bad reasons and Lisa gave us even more reasons why over-apologizing is the worst. (Not to mention that she was kind enough to switch posting days with me in the midst of a busy week!). As a fellow over-apologizer, I thought I would continue the theme this week by sharing another major lesson I’ve learned about over-apologizing from my experience.
I over-apologize because I don’t trust people to tell me the truth, which stems from the fact that I’m often too afraid to tell others the truth. I live in a world where no one is upfront and so everyone should just apologize to each other ALL OF THE TIME. Although it’s a very polite world, it’s not a very pleasant one.
I will apologize at the drop of a hat if I think there’s even a remote chance that something I did hurt someone’s feelings. I realized I do that because I don’t trust people to actually tell me if something hurt their feelings. I just assume that they’ll be hurt but not say anything and quietly resent me forever. And I can’t handle that (people-pleasing alert!), so I figure I’d better assume the worst and fix it now. What a lovely thing to assume about other people!
But I assume that because I often won’t tell people that something hurt my feelings but instead feel resentful. Telling the truth is hard and can be awkward, plus the other person might get mad at me and I can’t handle that. So it’s easier to say nothing. Basically, then, when I over-apologize, I’m doing to others as I would have them do unto me, which is anticipate my unwillingness to speak up for myself and take it upon themselves to make sure I’m okay. Please and thank you.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a place to be considerate to the needs of others, but my goodness, this is a codependent way to live. (Not to mention that it assumes that everyone else is exactly like me, which is just a little bit myopic.) Instead of taking responsibility for myself and my own needs and trusting that the other person is enough of an adult to take care of herself, I want her to take responsibility for me while I take responsibility for her (and I get mad if she doesn’t follow along with this plan). Wouldn’t it just be easier if we took care of ourselves? We each know our own needs better than anyone else, so instead of playing a neurotic second-guessing game, we can trust that if we offend other people and for some reason don’t realize it, they’ll tell us.
I think there’s one more facet to this, which is that sometimes there are truly minor offenses that it’s best to just overlook (as long as it’s not making you feel resentful). But you see, I want people to think that I’m practically perfect in every way, so I can’t handle the fact that there are little things about me that drive people nuts but which they’ve decided, in love, to just deal with. If there’s something, no matter how minor, that makes other people think less of me, I want to know about it (sort of). So I think I over-apologize to find out about these minor indiscretions that people might not have mentioned otherwise. Which, as Lisa said, really makes it all about me. It wasn’t a big enough deal to them to mention it, but I’m forcing them to. How considerate of me.
In the end, it’s much better when my basis for my identity isn’t in performance and people-pleasing but actually in the gospel and in the fact that God loves me.** Then other people being upset isn’t so threatening to me, and I actually have enough self-esteem to be able to handle it if someone speaks an unflattering truth about myself. I’m able to be brave enough to both speak the truth in love and to hear it from others. And my “Sorry’s” actually become about restoring relationships with others instead of trying to restore my relationship with myself.
**I wish I lived out this truth more often, but thank God that He is working on me!