As an Army brat, I moved around a lot, and I was often the new kid. For those not in the know, being the new kid equals being fodder for the bullies. I got picked on quite a bit, and I had to grow a hard shell rather quickly. Part of my defense system involved the idea that I shouldn't have to apologize for anything because I was always right. Freud probably would have had a field day with all the meaning behind that, but I was just an oversensitive kid trying to get through my day without getting pummeled or ending up with a wedgie. We all do what we have to do to survive.
So I never apologized for anything, back in the day. To apologize meant that I was wrong, and back then, I was never wrong. Never. Not once. Oh, people often tried to tell me that I was wrong. A boy named Tyler told me that I was wrong that cold sores were herpes, for example. I lovingly wrote a research paper on the subject, put it into an envelope with lots of hearts drawn carefully on it, and gave it to him right in front of a crowd of his friends. Of course, he never spoke to me again, but since he usually insulted me, I wasn't that upset.
College is a great place for epiphanies, there among all those books and that whole learning thing. My great epiphany in college was that I needed to admit it when I was wrong. I should be strong enough, and smart enough, to be able to take responsibility and admit my faults, as terrible as they might be. So I started to say that I was sorry more often.
But a funny thing happened when I started to apologize more often--I felt worse, not better. I felt less than, not equal. Why was this? Because many of the things I was apologizing for weren't things that I did, but were parts of who I was. I wasn't ladylike enough? Sorry. I don't smile enough? So sorry. I wasn't perky? Sorry. I hate math? Sorry for that as well. A person can only take so many of those kinds of apologies before they are reduced to nothingness. Another epiphany: I'm a person, not a doormat.
I've grown up quite a bit since then.It has been a work in progress, this letting go of the need to be right and learning to apologize. My husband has been a big help. I have learned to ask forgiveness for things I've done wrong. I've learned to say that I'm wrong, and mean it. I'm still horrible at understanding nonverbal cues, and I miss things. I don't always have to be right anymore, and that sometimes I am flat out wrong, and that the world doesn't end in either case. I learn from the experience, and I grow.
1.) The last time you apologized to someone was for...