“I’m sorry,” is a phrase that’s become spoken far too frequently. In our culture, apologies are passed out like flyers: open invitations to all, with little regard on the receiving end. It’s not to say there’s anything wrong with apologizing. In fact, when appropriate, it’s important. “I’m sorry,” offers others validation for wrongdoings, as well as confidence in and recognition for their significance on this planet. However, the term, which originated to reconcile, has become a statement with less meaning for the person to whom one is apologizing, and more a subtle message towards oneself.
As a student, I walk around campus and hear these words around every corner, and with the habitual nature of the words, it seems that people are more often apologizing for their existence, rather than for the action that’s just occurred. When one drops their fork and apologizes for the sound made, when another accidentally bumps into a stranger or even a friend, when I injure myself and can’t walk my friend’s dog, we are apologizing for the challenges we have, which are most greatly affecting ourselves. It isn’t so much that those impacted around us don’t need to be recognized, but rather that the guilt we take on layers, and we create a shameful experience of our own being.
We, as humans, make mistakes, but the term, “I’m sorry,” marks our humanity as a shadow of ourselves, rather than acknowledging those who witness it and are inevitably impacted. Upon my pondering, I’ve wandered into a theory. What if, instead of an apology, we offered gratitude to those we bump or run into with our mistakes? What if in place of, “I’m sorry for…” we said, “Thank you?”- a thank you for giving space for us to show up with all of ourselves, our human imperfections included. What if we saved apologies for those instances where our intentional actions hurt others more than they hurt ourselves? I believe we would find ourselves more accepting, compassionate, and congruent people.