This week I’ve been spending my time as CGA Cruise Director. It’s Welcome Week again- the first week of each CGA semester when new apprentices are asked to come away from distractions, noise, technology, and their daily norm (usually only 3 days after they arrive in our little town), and spend time refocusing and re-orienting themselves to their purpose: why they’re here, what they want from their season with us, and how they hear from the Lord.
It’s one of my favorite parts of the semesters.
I’ve been noticing, however, that there is one major phrase that keeps getting repeated:
“Oops! I bumped into you. Sorry!”
“Haaa, I’ve been calling you the wrong name! Sorry!”
“Excuse me, just need to step over… Sorry.”
“Can you hand me that thing? Sorry.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.”
It feels like an epidemic. We’re just one huge sorry bunch of people.
It’s not only the apprentices- my girlfriends, my college roommates, my high school crew- we pretty much apologized for anything and everything- being women, asking for something, potentially disturbing someone else’s quiet… the list goes on.
We, especially women, have been taught to soften the blow of a request, an accident, a statement, a sneeze. We have been encouraged to apologize for living, just in case it offends someone else.
Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, says “Even to me the issue of “stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest” sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is that women still run into those demands whenever we find and use our voices.” She quotes research from Boston College, as well: [The researcher] asked, ‘What do women need to do to conform to female norms?’ The top answers in this country: nice, thin, modest and use all available resources for appearance.
This says a lot about the culture in which we girls were raised.
It’s no wonder that our automatic response to any situation that has the slightest potential to result in someone else’s discomfort, disturbance, interruption, annoyance, or displeasure is “Sorry.”
We apologize for little, inconsequential things and big, unhealthy things (like being ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ or anything that isn’t in alignment with what someone else decides we should or shouldn’t be).
I have been chatting with a few different girls this week about boundaries- what they are, if they’re okay, how to create them…. and the biggest question I hear repeated in their soft, sweet voices is “What if my boundaries hurt someone else?”
GUYS. This is a serious problem.
First, many of us were raised without access to boundaries- the knowledge or the establishment or the maintenance of them. Our parents’ generation by and large did not discuss things like boundaries, so how could we possibly have known from an early age how extremely important and healthy they are? Now we’re all in our twenties and thirties, and not only have we missed out on how to establish boundaries that encourage health and growth, but we’ve been conditioned to apologize just in case we accidentally make a boundary and it hurts someone else’s feelings. Or pride. Or steps on the toes of what they require from us.
It’s hard to respect someone else’s boundaries if you don’t have any of your own.
This is a topic we could talk about for DAYS, but to save us both from that, I’ll just share one point. A point I think is most important when discussing boundaries, group dynamics, or even personal living.
Friends, ‘Sorry‘ is not the solution. Apologizing for the sake of softening the ‘blow’ of standing your ground, squeezing past someone in an aisle of Kroger, listening to someone else’s tale of woe (think about the last time you listened to someone’s hardship- was your response “I’m so sorry”? or something like “That’s such a hard thing”?), or breathing a little bit out of line is not the answer to how to be more feminine or what can I do to make people like me more. It is an offhand response that makes us smaller. A throwaway that takes up the space we’re meant to occupy.
And it needs to stop.
All you have to do is think about it. In any situation, when your programmed response is about to whip itself out, just think “Am I sorry for this? Genuinely apologetic? Do I need to be sorry for picking up this cereal box that is within 5 feet of this other person? Am I truly sorry for asking someone to pass the salt?”
And then you can choose for yourself how you DO feel about the situation.
If I’m not sorry, what can I then say to make myself known?
And that’s about it. It honestly comes down to those three simple statements that we learned in childhood, right alongside the devious sorry.
You shouldn’t apologize for asking something of someone else, particularly if it doesn’t cause them discomfort. You shouldn’t apologize for setting boundaries that protect your emotional, physical, or mental health. You shouldn’t apologize for breathing and taking up space.
It’s one thing to walk around offending people. It’s another to take up the space you take up and not apologize for it.
And those are my thoughts this rainy morning. Maybe it’s a little haphazard, maybe a little too quickly thrown together, but you know what? I’m not sorry.