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Know when, how to apologize

Welcome to motherhood

POSTED: November 12, 2013 2:00 p.m.

I’m an apologetic person. Maybe it’s Catholic guilt. Maybe it’s just in my nature. But I do love to apologize — mostly for things that aren’t my fault. My mother has always said I’d apologize for World War II if given the opportunity. She’s right; I am sorry for that horrible global conflict, but not because I think I had anything to do with it. In general, I’m just sorry it happened. It’s an empathetic type of apology.
I’ve been chided countless times by a wide array of people for offering up a litany of apologies at the first sign of conflict, irritation or offense. Nine times out of 10, I neither instigated nor perpetuated the problem I was sorry for, but apologizing just seemed like the right thing to do. I can’t help it — if someone (anyone) is unhappy, then I’m sorry that person is not 100 percent satisfied with every aspect of his or her life. Their problems likely weren’t caused by me, but I do wish things were going better for them.
Not only does this “I’m sorry” habit lead people to regularly tell me to stop it, it also leaves me with perpetually hurt feelings. If I’m going through a rough time or something has upset me and no one apologizes for my predicament, I draw the conclusion no one cares. Basically, I expect others to apologize as much as I do, and when that fails to happen, I’m offended.
It’s silly, I know. I tell myself to stop being so sensitive, but I can’t. I look at people who I don’t think apologize enough, and I can’t help but think they’re rude and heartless. That being said, I’ve thought long and hard about whether I’ll raise my daughter to be an “I’m sorry” kind of person.
On one hand, I don’t want her to walk around in a constant state of guilt, wondering whether some upset person somewhere would benefit from a good, old-fashioned apology. I don’t want her to take the blame for things that have nothing to do with her just because she feels doing so would temper an uncomfortable situation or placate a bullheaded, inconsiderate person who is incapable of admitting wrongdoing. I don’t want Reese to be callous, but I’d also like to make sure she’s not hypersensitive and emotional, like yours truly.
I really am torn, because I don’t want to risk ending up with a child who can’t apologize when she should. I’ve been hurt badly by friends who made decisions without pausing to think for one minute that their choices very well might break my heart. And it didn’t matter to them that I was absolutely crushed by their disregard for my feelings. Because those friends didn’t think I had the right to be upset and because they didn’t think they had done anything wrong, they weren’t sorry. But they should have been. And I’m not just saying that because I expect everyone to apologize as much as I do.
The fact of the matter is, if you hurt someone — regardless of whether or not you meant to — you need to be sorry. Causing someone mental pain, even if it’s pain you don’t think they have a right to feel, is never OK. The “Oh well, she’ll have to get over it. I didn’t do anything wrong” mentality is nothing short of selfish indignation. I’d rather have my daughter apologizing from here to kingdom come — even if it’s for something that is not her fault — if it means she’ll never disregard or ignore a friend who needs comforting and support.
The debate rages on inside my head and shows no signs of letting up: I don’t want Reese feeling woeful as often as I do, but I also don’t want her to be the one inflicting the woe or failing to lift up the downtrodden. I know there must be a happy-medium. I just hope I can cast my sensitive tendencies aside long enough to help my daughter find it.

 

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