My boss asked me this a few days ago: “Are you a Canadian?”
He asked me that because I apologize a lot. Too much. All the time.
I apologize when someone bumps into me. I apologize if I get sick. I apologize when I ask to use vacation time. I apologize when I am right and someone else is wrong.
Over-apologizing is a manifestation of guilt. And I certainly suffer from guilt. When I am at work, I feel bad about not being able to be on mom duty. When I am getting an MRI, I feel guilty about missing work. When I can't make it to a school play, I feel guilty. When I do make it to the play, I feel guilty.
So, I apologize.
Last Saturday night, the Derby girls were having their end-of-year party. It was a costume party with a superhero theme. I've always been more partial to the super villains. They are just more interesting. So I put together an awesome, sexy Darth Vader costume.
I spent an hour getting ready. As I did, the snow started to fall. And it continued to fall. And it dropped about 3 more inches. And then froze to the road. I tried to drive to the party. My poor little car was sliding all over the road. And my poor little eyes couldn't see anything through the combination of wet roads and storm darkness. So I missed the party and stayed safely home.
Then I promptly posted an apology to Facebook. I said I was sorry that I was missing the party and unable to deliver the plates and napkins I had promised. What I should have posted is: It's too dangerous for me to drive. I'm staying safely at home. I hope you all drive carefully. But that isn't what I wrote.
Once, when I was skating with a group of Fresh Meat skaters, my toe stop came off, tripping me. I took down three other skaters on my fall to the floor, including Biz, the Fresh Meat Mama.
"Sorry, sorry. I'm so sorry," I said as I scrambled to retrieve my toe stop before it rolled into another skater's wheels.
"There's no sorry in Derby," said Biz. "Just don't be an asshole and you will never need to apologize."
People have taken notice that I apologize too much. That hurts me both socially and professionally. But, there is a much more important reason that I need to break this habit. My son is inheriting my apology disease. Kidlet is apologizing too much. And I don't want him saddled with this burden.
I will talk to him tonight. proposing that we work together to break this bad habit that we both have. Here is what I plan to tell him.
We need to stop mindlessly apologizing. It makes sincere apologies hollow and meaningless. We need to stop saying sorry. When we need to apologize, we need to say I'm sorry.
We should not apologize as a form of politeness. We should instead say what we actually feel: That is so sad. We should say what we actually need: I need to interrupt you to tell you that I need that immediately. We should acknowledge what actually happened: Oh, you startled me. I didn't see you there.
When someone does something considerate, we should say thank you instead of sorry. Thank you for helping me with that. Not Sorry you had to do that for me.
We need to protect the integrity of a true apology. There is no point to constantly saying sorry. When something isn't your fault, don't apologize. When it is your fault, fix it. It really should be as simple as that.
Kidlet and I need to help each other by pointing out our habitual sorry statements when they occur. We should become aware of when we mindlessly toss out a sorry. When a true apology is necessary, we both need to work on saying I'm sorry. Once.
I am going to do my best to not have to apologize. I will try to stop mindlessly saying sorry. And when I do apologize, I will do it with deliberate thoughts and feelings. And I hope--with all my heart--that my son can do that too.