Journal

Why I’m Radically Changing the Way I Use This Word

Written by Jodie Utter

Three to four times a day, I catch myself about to tell someone I’m sorry for something but instead, I stop. And I don’t say it. Because I’ve realized in truth I’m not sorry, not even at all, and I’m not even sorry I’m not sorry, either.

I had an email sit in my inbox for quite some time recently. When I finally had proper time to put to it, to give it the kind of response it was worthy of I nearly began my reply with, “I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to reply . . . ” But something inside me welled up and niggled like a picket line protest and gave me pause. For though I may have wished a shorter span of time had slipped by before I could respond, sorry wasn’t the right word.

Similarly, I’m not sorry when I need to ask someone a question to clarify something I don’t understand or when I need to ask for help to accomplish a task. I’m not sorry I can’t spin a 13th plate in the air along with the 12 others. When someone pushes me past my limits prompting me to place some boundaries in between us, I’m not sorry. When I feel taken for granted and I choose to explain that to the person at fault to try to save the relationship, I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry when I’m not who others think I should be. I’m not sorry when my choices don’t align with theirs. And I’m not going to say I’m sorry anymore unless I truly am.

Sorry is for when we hurt people. Apology is for when we make a mistake that lets someone down. Contrition is for when we know better and can do better and even so we choose not to. If we’re always feeling sorry for all the things, what a sorry state we’re always going to be in. In addition, when overused, “sorry” is diluted and loses the punch it once packed for properly expressing our heartfelt regret and remorse when warranted.

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If we say we’re sorry for expressing our genuine hearts and beautiful minds, for not buying some of the neighbor kid’s fundraiser wrapping paper again this year, or for saying no to taking on more duties within one of the 92 committees we volunteer on, then does our apology for lashing out in anger and hurting a person’s heart still carry the weight it should?

A lovely in every way friend of mine, especially in her imperfections, recently commented bravely in response to a tasteless joke posted on a Facebook page she found in her feed. The joke was highly insensitive to the deaf and hard of hearing community and she began her comment by saying, “I’m sorry, but this is offensive . . . ” She was right and so I wondered at her need to begin her dissent with an apology. Why should she feel apologetic for peacefully calling out a perhaps thoughtless, but offensive nonetheless joke that’s likely going to further encumber some already burdened hearts?

Another friend had been absent from our friend group for a while due to being more than a little down and out in this crazy hard but so worth it life. When she felt ready to resurface and re-engage she announced her return with, “I’m sorry I haven’t been around.” We understood and supported her need to check out for as long as she needed to but I do not comprehend why she felt compelled to apologize for taking up her own reins and slowing her life down to a pace she could handle. 

A third friend recently apologized for breaking down and crying while chatting within our circle. She said she was sorry for bawling, that she didn’t know why she was doing it for it wasn’t like her at all. Oh, and she was also sorry she hadn’t put on makeup or styled her hair that day. 

Ladies. What are we seemingly always so sorry for, exactly? That we aren’t measuring up to our own standards? If so, can we consider lowering our own bars until the need to say we’re sorry we are who we are fades into oblivion? Are we sorry we might be offending people when we show up in our natural and unalterable state of imperfection? If so, can we rely on how we neither expect nor value perfection in others and parlay that truth into the extrapolation perfection is gross in ourselves as well?

What if we were to omit “sorry” when we say things like, “I’ve been away because I needed to be.” “You’re being hurtful to people and so I’m calling you out for it.” Or, “I don’t know why I’m crying.” Will we be any less kind, worthy, valued, listened to, respected or loved if we fail to profess we’re sorry for most of the things we think, say and do? I don’t believe we will.

I have a new dream in which every woman in the land decides or realizes, whichever it takes, she is not sorry for every little thing, even if it’s not gonna be alright.

When we show up in life just as we are, wielding our specialized equipment for utilizing our precise gifts and we dig in with people even though our limitations, we have nothing to be sorry about. We may perceive we come up short and thus feel vulnerable and uncertain how we measure up or where we belong, but that’s no reason to offer apology. In fact, continually offering up our true selves, lacking though we may be is every reason to feel fierce and brave and courageous. For when we allow ourselves to espouse these qualities even though we’ve imperfections, we more readily recognize those qualities in others as well.

We can’t be all things to all people all of the time and we shouldn’t feel the need to say we’re sorry for that impossibility. The impossible is not meant to be achieved, its meant to be recognized so that we can focus our efforts on what is possible instead. And I’m not even sorry I’m not sorry for thinking so.

About the author

Jodie Utter

Jodie Utter is a freelance writer & creator of the blog, Utter Imperfection. Her work has been featured regularly here on Her View From Home and also on Perfection Pending, That’s Inappropriate, Scary Mommy, Blunt Moms, Sammiches & Psych Meds, Grown & Flown and more.

She calls the Pacific Northwest home and ambles about its captivating forests and breath-taking (quite literally, because brrrrrrr) bodies of water with her husband and two kids.

Jodie is a Jill-of-all-trades by day, her favorite of which is writing. By night she’s a voracious reader, film connoisseur, seeker of laughter, dancer (as long as no one is watching, you should be picturing Elaine on Seinfeld here) and board game player.

Give her a heart-wrenching, tear-tugging story to connect with others in via either the reading or the writing of; especially the true kind, and you’ll give her the world. Jodie works to connect pain to pain and struggle to struggle so we’ll all feel less alone inside our stories and more at home in our hearts, minds, and relationships. You can connect with her on her blog, Utter Imperfection, and on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.