Saying ‘No’ to ‘Sorry’
I am currently reading a book called “A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises” by Renee Swope. I found it because a friend encouraged me to participate in a Proverbs 31 online Bible Study that is using the book.
This friend also knows my introverted hesitations about being in a small group. But she is a warrior who faithfully and gently organized a group of women to get together – in real life, not just on a computer – to discuss the book.
We are certainly not high in quantity, but there is quality in sitting together as a group of four women and revealing doubts and insecurities. We are only three weeks in, but I am learning from it and even enjoying it.
Sharing an hour a week with these ladies has made me hyper-aware of a bad trend among women, though. It involves a dirty little “S” word that is trying – and, seemingly, succeeding – to convince us that, as Glennon Melton recently put it, we feel we are not worthy of others’ “space or time or love or attention.”
You may’ve guessed it. The word to which I am referring is “sorry.”
A week ago, one of my best friends called me to tell me about some hurts in her heart. She talked, and I nodded my head even though she couldn’t see it. I furrowed my brow and made my sad face at her statements declaring fear and loneliness. She spilled her insides for maybe 15 minutes; I don’t know the exact time because I wasn’t looking at the clock and I didn’t care anyway.
Even though my heart hurt for her, my words felt inadequate. As is true with many similar conversations, the best I could offer was, “I will be praying for you.” She thanked me, sighed and then uttered the unthinkable: “I’m sorry.”
“No! Don’t say that to me. You have nothing to be sorry for,” I snapped.
During my small group Monday, my warrior-organizer friend and I had a similar insides-spilling-out session. I am really liking getting to know this lady. Combine that with my obsession for hearing people’s stories, and I was happy to sit there, sipping my Panera coffee and licking the leftover cream cheese off my knife because the bagel was gone by that time. Besides, we all know the bagel is just an excuse to eat the cream cheese.
As she finished her thoughts, I was processing how much I related to her feelings. Then she said the “S” word. I repeated what I told my other friend and asked her to please stop apologizing.
Writing this post, I thought about how many times I’ve apologized to people when I’ve asked a question or requested that they do something that is within their job duties.
Like when I questioned the employee at Lowe’s about washing machines and the accompanying delivery services. At first I was confident, but at some point I started doubting myself, assuming that I was not worth his time. I thought I had everything I needed. Then I remembered the inlet hoses. I returned to the appliances section and began with, “I’m sorry to bother you again…”
Or like when I presented my coupon for a free appetizer at a restaurant and the server forgot to apply it to my bill. I actually felt bad asking her to fix it. “I’m sorry to bother you, but…”
Not so much anymore, but I’ve worked with people in the past who’ve begun a request with “I’m sorry; I know you’re busy, but…” It actually offends me when others approach me that way. I want to shake them and say, “Please don’t apologize for asking me to do my job! I am talented at this job, and I will do good work for you, even if I am busy.”
So what do other people think when I start a request with “I’m sorry, but…”? I think it might be time for them to get angry.
To my friends who trust me with your insides, I do not accept your apologies for talking and sharing life. I will not. Ever. You are worth my time and attention.
To the lady in front of me in the cafeteria line yesterday, I do not accept your apology for taking what you perceived to be too long to fill your plate. Yes, we work in a busy hospital, but we all need to eat. Your lunch is just as important as mine.
And to the people who serve others for a living, whether in restaurants, washing machine land or the patient-care world, I appreciate your work. Really, I do. But I won’t apologize anymore for being your customer.
I will continue to say, “Thank you.” That’ll have to be enough. “I’m sorry” is reserved only for doing something wrong. Like licking cream cheese off a butter knife.
P.S. When the study is complete, and I have finished the book, I’m hoping I can write a post about HOW to be more confident, which should help us all stop with the unnecessary apologies.
Originally published on ovparent.com.