I tend to be an improver – a fixer, by nature. I have high expectations of myself and of others. If I see something that feels broken or unjust or something that could be tweaked to make better – I move toward it, leaning in and doing my best to fix it. These can be endearing qualities. They can be qualities that make the world a better, more just place to live. They can also come with the price of crippling anxiety, judgmentalism, and cynicism. This often plays out in small ways – if something doesn’t meet my expectations, I often respond in anger or resentment, and sometimes those responses impact the ones I love. Thus, I have become well acquainted with the apology. And I am continuing to learn about the art and importance of the words, “I’m sorry.” As a woman, I am learning not to apologize for taking up space, for sharing my opinions or experience, or for sharing my truth. And as a constantly-being-formed-former-perfectionist, I am learning how to really say, “I’m sorry,” when it is needed and merited.
Recently, I learned some incredible tips from Dr. Harriet Lerner and Dr. Brené Brown. I will share those below, but perhaps the one that I am trying to practice the most right now is in apologies – both given and received, to respond with “Thank you,” rather than what I commonly hear, “It’s okay.” I apologized to Sophie the other day, and she responded with, “It’s okay.” And I said, “No, it’s not okay. The way I responded to you in frustration was wrong.” It’s hard for us to apologize. It’s also hard to receive an apology. The hard work of reconciliation, though, invites us to dig in, even when it is the most uncomfortable. Forgiveness and healing take time and energy. But this is the work of God, and when we participate in the long work of forgiveness and healing – often the outcome of “I’m sorry,” – we participate in the life of God.