I was driving with my daughters the other day, and my six-year-old was telling us a story about her best friend on the playground. During the explanation of not playing together during first recess, she quickly said “but told him I was sorry and then he would play with me”. WHOA. I took a deep breath and asked what she had done that warranted the apology. “Nothing” she answered, “I just wanted to play with him and it was a way to start the conversation. He said it’s okay and then I could play with him.” NO, NO, NO!
My teenager and I looked at each other and started to talk at once. A great discussion ensued about other ways to start a conversation, other approaches to a friend who isn’t playing with you, other options than apologizing when you’ve done nothing wrong. This conversation laid heavy on my heart and I went to bed that night thinking about how often we apologize for nothing. In fact, it often comes out of our mouths so quickly, that we don’t even realize we are saying it. Drop your pen? “Oops, sorry”. Bump into someone “oops sorry”. Someone interrupts you? “Sorry.” The words “I’m sorry” are spoken so often, they have almost lost their meaning. We say “I’m sorry” even when we’ve done nothing wrong.
When we’ve done nothing wrong… How many times during the day do we feel the need to apologize? How many times does that apology morph from being sorry for our actions to being sorry for who we are? “I’m sorry, I’m hungry though.” “I’m sorry, I don’t want to go for that walk.” “I’m sorry, I don’t like crowds.” “I’m sorry, I want to go home.” I want to remind you that we don’t have to be sorry because we’re hungry or tired or don’t want to participate in an activity. There’s a saying that “No.” is an entire sentence. You don’t need to say you’re sorry. You don’t need to give an explanation. Just “No.” is enough.
This conversation with my daughters brought this topic to the forefront of my mind. I now call them out when they say, “I’m sorry.” We have meaningful discussions about when we need to apologize (after hurting someone’s feelings, for example). I’m hoping it has changed how we communicate, how we show remorse, but most of all; I’m hoping it affects how my daughters view themselves and their value – and that they stop apologizing for being who they are and when they’ve done nothing wrong.