I don’t know when it became a thing to apologize for being sad or hurt or upset or heartbroken. Especially among friends. Is this new?
In the last couple weeks alone, I’ve had best friends and family members say sorry to me out of embarrassment for venting or shutting down. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’ve actually done the same thing myself for fear of being too “negative.”
But the truth is, I’m not sorry. My life isn’t all fair weather, and that’s really nothing to be ashamed of. So why then are we so afraid to tell our whole stories without apology or disclaimer?
The way I see it, apologies are for mistakes. And in this regard, I’m not talking about all those left-the-cap-off-the-toothpaste mistakes. I’m talking about those unintentionally offensive or hurtful mistakes that most likely need to be brought to our attention. Or those misguided conclusions and actions that have damaging, irreversible effects for yourself or others.
Having a bad day is not a mistake. Grieving is not a mistake. Still caring or missing someone is not a mistake.
But we’ve made it so shameful to not be perfect, happy, and positive all the damn time that we’d rather just disappear than reach out to others for fear of bringing them down with us. So now, not only do we have our own feelings to deal with, we also have the feelings of our loved ones to navigate. And since no one wants to pull back the curtain on real lives, we continue to engage at the surface-level when the going gets tough.
If we’re talking about love here, which I think we are, what’s with all these limitations? Love alone should imply we’re all on the same team no matter the circumstances. But far too often, love seems to come with conditions. And far too often, the conditions are expected, making it nearly impossible to have real, authentic connections and conversations. We all talk about love, we even promote it, but when love is hurting or uncomfortable or scared, we doubt it truly exists. We’re fine to share our joys, but weary to share our woes. Why?
My best guess is that we’re all afraid of truth and consequences. I think we’re terrified of vulnerability. And I think we’re scared shitless to hold each other accountable. So we use our apologies as shields to conceal our imperfections. Because we’d much rather hide until we’re “healed” … enough. And if that doesn’t work, we just say sorry. Again.
But the truth is we all have a dark side and we all have dark moments. We can deny it, suppress it, bottle it all up and pretend to be fine; or we can say fuck it, acknowledge it, embrace the hell out of it, and be real.
What I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older is this: just by being our real, human selves, equally real and human people will naturally reveal themselves. And all others will eventually be weeded out by the universe. I’ve been loyal, gracious, and honest with people who have turned their backs on me with no regard. I’ve also been cruel, unreasonable, and inconsistent with people who have forgiven me without a second thought. But these instances were both the real me.
I can be the best just as easily as I can be the worst. I’m both polite and impatient. Compassionate and temperamental. Reserved and outgoing. I have an awesome life and I still complain. I’m easily excited and easily confused. I’ve trusted the wrong people and I’ve found the right ones. I play small and I win big. My sarcasm rarely helps. My humor isn’t for everyone. And I think I’m hilarious.
But I’m not sorry. I’m human.
At some point, we’re going to have to make some real connections. And at some point, we’re going to have to drop our guards and turn down the pressure on this perfection shit. Let’s practice a little grace and compassion. Let’s give each other and ourselves the freedom to just be. And let’s take risks and open up. I can almost guarantee we won’t be sorry.