when saying you’re sorry is a bad idea

Have you ever met someone who apologizes for everything? At first it is endearing and you think, Oh, look how thoughtful she is being of me! She is sorry she was late. But then you look at your phone and realize she is five minutes early. And she’s apologizing for it. And you realize that her definition of late is showing up two minutes past early. Before the night is over you have counted her apologies to the point where you can no longer focus on what she is saying because you’re waiting for her to apologize for it.

It’s exhausting to listen to her, until I realize I do it, too. I want to apologize for writing a non-fiction book because I know they aren’t as fun to read as fiction. I apologize for getting emotional when people pray for me. I’m not really sorry, but it’s what comes out of my mouth when it happens. I don’t know why I’m crying, I hear myself say, I’m so sorry. I’m being ridiculous.

When guests come over, have you ever heard yourself pointing out the mess to them and apologizing for all the imperfections even though you know that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful?

When the dinner dishes still sit in the sink from dinner two nights ago, do you hear yourself apologize to your husband for it, almost like you want to point out the flaws first before he gets a chance to do it?

The thing is, he never would. I completely accept your flaws but I am strictly opposed to my own. What I’m really saying is, Attention everyone! I have a very important announcement to make – I am a human being and I am ever so sorry about that.

We apologize for being emotional.

We apologize for being inarticulate.

We apologize for not having answers.

And in the doing, we sorry our way out of making art.

But these apologies aren’t really apologies, are they? A God-led sorry leads to healing, not hiding. Apologies said in true humility and repentance are intended to draw people closer to God and each other. A true sorry is said with an open hand, not a clenched fist. A true sorry is not about me. But sorry is a bad idea when it is used to cover up our beautiful, vulnerable, fragile humanity.

So what if we did the opposite? What if instead of brushing our emotions aside and apologizing for the brokenness, we invited a few people into it? What if instead of pointing out the mess on the floor, we welcomed them to sit with us among it? Perhaps we would finally see that we were made for greater things than this. We are living in the midst of provision, abundance, skill. Giftedness. We were made by design and on purpose by an unapologetic God. Dare to receive His making of you. And don’t forget to say thank you.

Comments

  1. says

    Love it! I totally apologize for a messy house that by most standards isn’t messy, and other things like that. But it is not an honest apology! Thanks for this!
    Danielle´s last blog post ..Grace Notes

  2. says

    i agree. too much apologising is annoying. but then i know someone who prides himself to be someone who NEVER apologises – for anything. ever. now THAT is more annoying.
    kamana´s last blog post ..because i know

  3. says

    This is so good and true. I have found with myself and with women that I minister to that people who apologize for ‘everything’ feel so unworthy to even take up space on this earth. The enemy, through circumstances in life, has convinced them they don’t measure up and never will. They don’t realize it, but they really can’t grasp just how much their Father loves them and is so pleased with them. Also, ‘perfectionism, performance and drivenness’ all whisper (often times scream) “you are not good enough!”

    This post was a lovely reminder as I personally walk out from these old lies. Beautiful job! You are a gift to the people you reach. You are doing a good job doing the ‘works He planned beforehand’. I suspect He is well pleased!

    Relentlessly Pursuing,

    Michelle

    • says

      Wow Michelle! This is me – sometimes I feel so unworthy to even be here and definitely unworthy to be trying to minister to others and do God’s work. It’s hard to grasp the idea that I am worthy, especially when I have a lifetime of not feeling good enough behind me.
      Kristy K´s last blog post ..Friday Fan Feature

  4. says

    “…almost like you want to point out the flaws first…”
    That’s me. That’s it. You’ve uncovered yet another area in my life that needs correction. My mom has pointed out when my children would wear something I stitched myself and someone would compliment me on it, I would always say, “Thank you, but I messed up with the zipper and this sleeve isn’t perfectly straight, etc.” The person complimenting wouldn’t have even noticed it. I wanted to point it out before they got too close and could see those things for themselves. I didn’t want them to think I thought it was perfect only to see the imperfections upon closer study. I try to be aware of those tendencies now. The Lord knew I needed a refresher course. Thank you.
    Southern Gal´s last blog post ..My List Continues

  5. says

    yes. this. we apologize for being who and what we are, so busy wishing we were someone – or something – else or better or more or less…

    And I had something absolutely brilliant to say, and I lost it. But I won’t apologize. Promise. ;-)
    Kelly Sauer´s last blog post ..Beginnings&8230 Or not

  6. says

    Thank you for all your words. I thought maybe you had heard me in conversation apologizing for things. I too apologize for things before others have a chance to notice a mistake, or mess. Definitely have some things to work through and offer up to the One who knows all my flaws, and still loves me beyond measure. . .

    Thank you

  7. says

    This is so me: “almost like you want to point out the flaws first before he gets a chance to do it?”

    I feel like I should point out that I realize the imperfection, lest *gasp* someone notice and think I don’t. That I am just an imperfect slob and don’t know it.

    And the invitation to sit in the mess together? sigh. love.

  8. says

    This post hit me… hard… because I, too, apologize for everything… and now I kinda know why.. because deep down i am apologizing for even existing. As a child very early on I knew my father did not love me… he didn’t even like me.. and he even went so far to wish i was dead….So for 45 years I thought something was wrong with me and therefore need apologizing for…

    I think I use it now to prevent someone else from hating me and wishing i was dead… so maybe its a defense mechanism..

    Thank you for an awesome post… I will be bookmarking this one to go back to often!

    R
    Rebecca´s last blog post ..New Do

  9. says

    LOVE THIS. I noticed myself doing this and try so hard to stop it. Old habits die hard. You are right, it kills my art. It keeps me from blogging, it keeps me from putting paint on paper (ouch, yes, it is still sitting blank behind a door in my house), it keeps me from inviting people into my home and life.
    By the way, I don’t read fiction so I am glad you did not write a fiction book. :-)
    Sharon@Hiking Toward Home´s last blog post ..Making Lasting Changes and Habits 721 750

  10. says

    Well, now, this may be my most favorite Emily post ever. And one of my favorite posts in the history of post-dom, EVUH. Stunning encouragement here!

    I get teased all the time for over-apologizing. Yep, I wanna point out all the flaws before you notice them so you know that I know they’re there. Craziness! But oh yes…a God-led sorry leads to healing, not hiding. Wow! I accept the challenge to see myself as beautifully designed by our unapologetic God!
    Kristen-Chasing Blue Skies´s last blog post ..When You’ve Got the Rules Down but Not the Relationship

  11. says

    I live in fear of others pointing out my imperfections so like you said I do it before they can. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized that it wasn’t because I thought so little of myself, but instead it is because I think too much of myself. I fear someone correcting me or pointing out my imperfections because I am so prideful. As I have prayed for God to humble me (through clenched teeth), those fears are beginning to melt away and freedom is slowly creeping in. Thanks again for your encouragement.
    Anjie Clifton´s last blog post ..Mother’s Day Temptations

  12. says

    This is my struggle. Regularly.

    I apologize to my husband out of shame. Pure shame.

    And yet, I know that God wants to bring me out of this and to really know freedom like I can only begin to imagine. Apologizing for who I am and the silly things I do…why???!!! This is me. I make mistakes. I don’t need to apologize for who I am. Such truth. Such very important life-changing truth!
    Amy Hunt´s last blog post ..make your marriage a work of art

  13. says

    What if instead of brushing our emotions aside and apologizing for the brokenness, we invited a few people into it?

    – i needed this today. thank you.

  14. says

    Once again, your words have flown straight to the target. When I am justifying, apologizing, attempting to “appear humble,” pointing out my imperfections, my husband says I am “fishing for a compliment.” That stops me, makes me realize I am actually drawing attention to myself, certainly not being humble. Thank you for your gentle (as always) reminder.
    I mentioned your blog in my post today, Emily, hoping to share with others some of the blessings you have given me. Thank you!
    Maureen´s last blog post ..Duct Tape and Glue

  15. says

    I used to apologize for everything and it was bred from insecurity, I felt that everything I did or said was somehow an inconvenience to others and therefore constantly apologized. It was only when I finally took the time to read God’s word properly and prayed for Him to help me understand His love for me that I began to be released from this pattern of behaviour.

    Thanks for posting this!
    Gemma´s last blog post ..Encouragement Mini Book

  16. says

    Why is it so much easier to see the giftedness in others and not in your own self? Like you for example, I can see that you are amazingly gifted, your talents used by God to encourage others. But as for me, I’m apologizing all over the place for what I see as inadequacies. Somehow I have got to change my thinking. Thanks for the encouragement today!
    Jamie @ Six Bricks High´s last blog post ..Family Life Series 2011 Week One

  17. says

    I’m a serial apologizer, so this hit home with me! I do try to watch that I don’t say that I’m sorry every two minutes. What’s funny is that my husband is the same way. I guess like attracts like after all! Not sorry about that, at least. :)
    Cinderella´s last blog post ..Just a quick note

  18. says

    It is amazing how God can weave stories and messages from many different places together all to send a single message to each and every person who needs to hear exactly what he needs each person to hear. And that is what he has done with this message of Authenticity for me in the last few weeks. Thanks for being authentic too. :) I definitely needed to hear this!!!
    kimberly´s last blog post ..Dirty Dishes

  19. Jacque Watkins says

    Beautifully said, and so inspiring…dying to self-serving pride and replacing it with a heart of gratitude and authenticity…thank you for your words…

  20. says

    This reminds me a little of the common inability many of us have to accept compliments.

    “You look really great.”

    “Oh, don’t say that. I know I look terrible. If I could just lose a little more weight, and I was so unhappy with my hair this morning, and…”

    Why can’t we just say thank you?

    “Thank you. That’s kind of you to say.”

    It’s so simple, and yet so many of us deflate compliments long before they ever have the chance to take root in our hearts. Why, when others want to build us up, must we insist on knocking ourselves down? It ruins the effort that someone makes to be kind, doesn’t it? When we toss compliments back into their laps… “No thank you. I don’t want your kindness.”

    I’m trying to be better at this, to be gracious and grateful when others have a kind word.
    Jenny P.´s last blog post ..Dear Florida-

  21. Abbie says

    I’m sorry I’m crabby. I’m sorry I’m tired. I’m sorry I’m crying. I’m sorry I have no energy to play. I’m sorry the baby won’t stop crying.

    But how do I keep embracing this exhausted minute by minute survival of a sweet new baby girl?

    Thanks for making me think, even though it’s about the last thing I want to do.

  22. says

    To invite others into my brokenness and to sit with me in my mess… that’s something that has been prodding my heart to a new level for a bit of time now. Your words here will have me challenged and continuing to push forward in doing just that.

    Learning to invite in, broken and messy as it is.

  23. says

    Oh Emily, I think you struck a deep chord with me. I am this person. Constantly saying “I am sorry” for everything. I am aware of it, but it’s so automatic that I do it without thinking. I am going to try and not say it so much, and instead, invite people into those places of mine that are not perfect that I keep trying to hide. Thank you for this post!

  24. Sissy says

    I totally cry when people pray for me. Don’t know why. Well, maybe it is because sometimes I feel bad asking for help, even though they give it freely.

    Love you!

  25. says

    thank you for this! i’ve been mulling it over since i read it yesterday.

    my name is ellen. and i am an over-apologizer.

    and i think it’s because we’ve accepted the lie that perfection is attainable this side-which you spoke to so eloquently in your last post-and then we spend the rest of our lives apologizing for the fact that we aren’t; shoring up for when others see the truth about us.
    ellen´s last blog post ..shop talk- business planning

  26. Debbie says

    This is SO true! It reminds me of a conversation I had with the elderly Finnish gentleman next door. I apologized for something or other, probably the mess after my moving in.

    He smiled at me gently and said, “It is nothing. Your humanity is showing.”

    The thing I thought was a ‘big deal’ was just one more proof that I am human. Now, whenever I want to ‘kick myself’ I try to tell myself, “Your humanity is showing”. :-)

  27. says

    Wow, thanks for sharing!
    I think I do this some, and I hadn’t even thought about it that way…..very thought provoking.
    Stefanie
    Stefanie´s last blog post ..Grief

  28. John Flynn says

    It is a nice post, i was enjoying it very much.

    one thing though, why the refernce to God regaring sorry?

    It would be nice if people could just either make a comment and or say sorry without it having anything to do with God or prayer.

    Now please note it did not offend me, after all it is writing in a blogg about souls, so maybe i’m wrong in this instance. but generally.

    I know a lot of perfectly nice friendly people that don’t believe in God.

    I also know a few horrible peole that say they beleive in God and go to church every week, while the rest of the time they are down right hypocirites, rip off merchants and mean.

    kind regards

  29. says

    So well spoken, Emily. Thank you for these words of encouragement and conviction. I’ve been noticing all the bloggers who apologize for not writing or for beinggoneso long. I don’t think we owe our readers an apology when real life takes priority. That’s exactly as it should be. I never want to bea slave to my blog or others’ opinions…and yet it can slip in there and happen so subtly.

    Thanks for your words,
    Linsey
    LLH Designs´s last blog post ..Little Linsey Stories

  30. Brooke Blanchard says

    LOVED your post, Emily!! We are so apologetic over the ‘silliest’ things and we have to remember that God does not expect PERFECTION from us ~ We are human. Beautiful!

  31. says

    Wow. Thank you for this post.

    I rarely can come up with anything to say after your posts, other than “thank you.” You say it all so beautifully, truthfully, compassionately. (Which then makes me a little scared that I can’t come up with anything to say, as if to assume then that that means I’m not a writer. Then I want to apologize. Hah.)

    So, again, thank you.
    Caroline´s last blog post ..Trusting in New Territory

  32. says

    I am so thankful that you wrote this, and thankful to Kendra (byhandathome) who linked to this post. This is something I continue to work on, but it’s more than choosing not to say the words, but feeling it in your heart as well – that’s the challenge I face daily. Thank you again – beautiful.
    Kimberly´s last blog post ..kcwc- a robot outfit

  33. says

    Oooh thank you so much for this post! I have been thinking a ton lately about what “sorry” really means and the weight it carries. So this post is much appreciated. As are all of your other posts! They almost always bring me to tears.
    I seriously cannot wait for your book to come out. I read the description on Amazon and felt like the description was literally written to me. I will be first in line on September first to buy a copy!

    God bless!
    Elizabeth

  34. Rob says

    Great article. Today, after being mistreated by a friend for 2 years, I finally gave them the boot and guess what? I found myself wanting to apologize because of her mistakes. True, I want to help everyone but I’m learning that everyone does not need nor want my help. In journaling, I have come to recognize that I get this attribute from my mom. For example, today I noticed she had a piece of small plastic on her neck. I said, “Mom you have something on you” and she said, “I’m sorry.” I instantly thought, “why is she sorry? It’s not affecting me. It wasn’t done intentionally.”

    I also notice that we both apologize after standing up for ourselves. What’s that all about? We will call someone in the aftermath and make sure they are ok so that we can sleep well at night. It doesn’t make any sense and it’s time to toughen up.

    Not sorry for having written this,
    ~Rob hahaha =)

  35. says

    i was backing up, coming to the start of your compassion trip, but keep getting caught up in all these other beautiful posts. you have such a gift, emily.
    i must go tend to dirty dishes in the sink, piles on my table and a closet keep by a secret horder, and i’m only sorry that i can’t read more here now. ;)
    xo
    patty´s last blog post ..the beginning

  36. says

    I don’t know how I missed this post, but I can so relate.
    I was the girl in my twenties who apologized non-stop. It was exhausting and so annoying.

    It’s still uncomfortable, but I am definitely inviting people into my broken mess. And, I’m not apologizing for it!

    great post, emily.
    tara´s last blog post ..Sultry wins the race.

  37. Tammy says

    I loved your post Emily, how true. I just discovered your blog. Congrat’s on your books, what a great accomplishment and blessing!!

    I too am one of those “sorry” girls! An introvert who is afraid of the world, so I go on apologizing for everything to mask my fears. What a great reminder you have given us to start embracing who God made us to be. We may not be perfect in the flesh and in our own doing, but we have to remember that we were created in His perfect light with each of our own special gifts and thru Him we are able to utilize those precious gifts. We are the Perfect Creator’s creation, so we must be something SPECIAL and I’m realizing the only “sorry” I should be submitting is to God for not always trusting in his work and will.

    It’s very difficult not to critize and judge our selves, but I am a work in progress and have a very forgiving Father. We are of his mold and the Potter is still beautifully molding. Let’s remember we are something SPECIAL because we came from God! Thank you Lord, for making all your children unique and for giving us the Grace to see our value and that of others!

  38. CATHY ALBERTSON says

    I needed this today. :O) I immediately apologize to my husband and my boss when I am sick. When my sickness is an inconvenience.

  39. Patty says

    Your post reaffirms an idea I have recently learned and been trying to put into practice. Our apologies are often about ourselves–“I’m sorry for the mess” implies that “because I usually keep my house neat, and aren’t you impressed by that?” It also creates a barrier because it says “and I don’t approve of others’ who houses look like this all the time.” Possible result? Cool friend lost because her house is not always neat.

    A true friend will be at your house enough time to see it in all of it’s neat/not-s0-neat/train-wreck stages!

  40. Nancy says

    Right, it takes us back to the gospel which is “He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ”. Thankyou Jesus! – for giving me your own righteousness (right standing with God) as a gift. Also, is clear in Isaiah that our own righteousness is as filthy rags, there is not even one righteous (humanly speakly).

    Grace = unearned, undeserved, unmerited favour. It’s such good news that we cannot and do not need to try to earn God’s favour, it’s not of ourselves (Eph 2:8-10 amp.) so that no-one can boast. Rather get to depend on and trust in Him & His perfect gift of righteousness, finished work on the cross to walk in faith and live life by His love and with the help of the Holy Spirit. Law / grace is such a big deal … Gal. 4 & 5 was encouraging to me this morning as was this post. Thanks! N

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