“The ocean sang. The conversation’s dimmed. Go build yourself another dream. This choice isn’t mine. I’m sorry.” ~R.E.M.
You know how “Thank You” has an equal and opposite partner? “You’re Welcome” always comes along for the ride, a comforting sidekick that bookends that most wonderful of interactions. It’s clean and cauterized once “You’re Welcome” follows along, and we can move on to other pursuits. But “Sorry” doesn’t have just one response. Pretty much anything can come after “Sorry.” Some of those rejoinders are positive, others are negative, and some are merely indifferent. We can be forgiven for whatever we perceived we did wrong, we can be summarily judged for it, or we can be left hanging without any resolution. It’s almost like saying “I Love You,” because the wait for a response can be the hardest and most uncomfortable wait in the world.
I should know. I apologize enough.
I’ve developed a system on the other end, being the apologist that I am. When someone else tells me they’re sorry, for whatever, for anything at all, I tell them they are forgiven. It’s as simple as that: “You are forgiven.” And that can ease the weight of the world from their shoulders. Even if it’s not as easy as all that, for me anyway. Because, more times than a few, it does take time to think about it, to dig through my feelings, to stabilize myself enough emotionally to be able to give them a solid response. But I tell them they’re forgiven right off the bat because I know it will happen. I know that regardless of how I feel in the moment I will eventually forgive them because I would want them to forgive me if the shoe was on the other foot. It’s as simple as that.
Because I apologize way too often than could possibly be healthy, and I need that kind of assurance that I haven’t ruined my relationships with others. I need that kind of protection against the harsh nature of the world, that human connection and forgiveness that can make everything else rosy. I don’t always get that, so helping others achieve that with three simple words is the closest I can get to a kind of closure I want for myself. Usually they glance at me when I tell them they are forgiven with a curious look, as if I’m telling them some kind of joke that they have to verify is a joke. But I just nod my head and smile, and they know they really have been forgiven. And yes, I live vicariously through the exchange, which is okay.
“No matter how many times you say you’re sorry, somebody is not going to hear you.” ~Pete Rose
I am the apologist. I constantly look for ways that I have wronged others, and I request forgiveness. I long for it. I need it to validate my life in some way that I still haven’t quite figured out yet. I’ve tried to evaluate it at different moments, when I feel the most sorry, but I’m too tied up and twisted in it to truly be objective about the whole thing. Others have told me that I use it as a defense mechanism, that I am so worried about the way others feel about me that the apologies, the interactions they cause, give me the approval of those I wish to impress. Of course I fear they do just the opposite, that people see me as a whiner who apologizes way too much. The problem is that I can’t seem to stop myself.
Because, you see, “I’m Sorry” is my default setting now. I think I say it more than “Hey,” or even more than “I Love You.” Some have told me that the more I think about it, and the more I try to avoid saying it as a placeholder, the less I will actually say it. They’re all full of shit, because I’ve tried, and nothing has changed. I find myself saying it, and I want to take it back, but it’s already out. So I just sit there and wait to be forgiven, with approximately a 50/50 shot at a pseudo kind of redemption that is largely unnecessary. And I know it. I just can’t seem to help myself.
There must be a better way. I’m sorry.