Why It Takes Courage To Say You’re Sorry
Two easy words that are not always easy to say. In our society, we are taught that apologizing means you’re at fault. Or, it means you’re showing weakness. We’re encouraged to be tough, not vulnerable. When it’s said, it’s often in a sarcastic way. “I’m sorry I have a life and have been too busy for you!” or “I’m sorry you can’t handle criticism.” And, as per the mid-2000s, “Sorry not sorry!”
Back in those early aughts, my sister and I found ourselves at a standstill. We had a horrible fight that involved name-calling and lots of screaming. Both of us felt the other person was in the wrong. Or we at least didn’t want to admit to our own wrongdoing. A month went by. Two months. Three. I was waiting for the “I’m sorry” I felt I totally deserved. I kept waiting. And so did my sister. Neither one of us wanted to make the first move.
When I finally did, I asked her why she didn’t reach out to me. “I don’t know,” she responded. “I guess I was just afraid that if I said it and you didn’t forgive me or were still mad, then I’d look bad. I don’t want to put myself out there like that.” She told me she let that fear prevent her from apologizing to me, even though she felt guilty and wanted to reconcile. We decided, then and there, to take accountability for our words and actions, and to never go months without speaking again.
Pride can get the best of any of us. It’s never easy to admit that you’re wrong. Sometimes it feels easier to break off a friendship, cut off ties with a family member, or even end a relationship because someone is too afraid to admit they messed up. That pride can eat you up inside, but you’d rather deal with that than confront the person. You try to bury your feelings. All of this ends up making us internalize conflict that we should be addressing.
And that’s the thing. Saying “I’m sorry” actually shows strength, not weakness. A person who can apologize—and truly mean it—is self-aware. They’ve taken the time to really think about their actions and reflect on the conflict from all perspectives. Whenever there’s an altercation, whether that’s between two people or more, rarely is someone completely free of blame. To be introspective and self-critical is a skill you must develop over time.
It’s something you must choose to work on. Some people may not want to work on themselves for a number of reasons. They’re afraid to, simply can’t acknowledge their own shortcomings, or choose to not better themselves. The truth is, everyone can better themselves—even those who seem to have it all together. If we can embrace that we’re all imperfect humans who have room to grow, we’ll continually become better and better versions of ourselves.
We can’t grow unless we fail. We can’t be better people unless we admit that we’re wrong sometimes. By not putting ourselves out there, because we’re afraid of failure, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. It’s tough, but with introspection and confidence, we can accept that we’re all flawed. That’s okay. All we can do is say we’re sorry, and learn from it.
Belinda Cai is a multimedia journalist who frequently writes about lifestyle, social and environmental justice, and identity and culture. She has a master’s in journalism and communications from the University of Southern California, and hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. When she’s not writing, she’s Wikipedia-spiraling, staying active, enjoying nature, and thrifting. Check out her website and Instagram.