I believe apologies can free us from our self-made prisons or lock us up in new ones.
Being able to apologize when we have done something wrong is extremely important. When we hurt someone and apologize, it is like a powerful reset button. It creates space for us to recognize that we are acting badly, and it helps us to realize that we can change. A heartfelt and timely apology also creates the space to mend broken relationships, reconcile with someone we have hurt, and begin our relationship again.
Good Apologies; Bad Apologies
Apologies can be a force for good, but I also believe that apologies can be a bad thing.
Have you ever met anyone who apologizes all of the time for everything? I have: myself. Since I was a teenager, I have had the tendency to apologize constantly to everyone for everything.
For example, I have and still often do apologize for things like having strong emotions, for making little mistakes, for having preferences, for not doing things the way people want me to (even though the way I am doing them is perfectly fine).
I have apologized for crying. I have apologized for laughing. I have apologized for needing to rest. I have apologized for feeling angry. I have apologized for disagreeing with people. I have apologized for needing to say “no”. I have apologized for breathing too loudly. I have even apologized for walking down the hall at the same time as someone else.
You get the picture. There is probably very little I have not apologized for at some time in my life or another. Maybe you are the same way.
Why Do We Apologize So Much?
At one point a few years ago, I asked myself, “Why do I apologize so much for everything?” I realized that I have had a tendency to apologize so much because I am afraid.
Afraid of offending people.
Afraid of making mistakes.
Afraid of hurting others.
Afraid of making decisions.
Afraid of messing up my life.
Afraid of messing up other people’s lives.
If you apologize a lot, maybe you are afraid, too. There are probably a lot of reasons why we are afraid, but I believe that one of the sources of fear for people who apologize too much is something I call Systems of Domination.
A System of Domination is any institution or system of beliefs that tries to weaken people’s autonomy and personal power so that they are easier to control. One of the main messages of Systems of Domination is that we cannot trust ourselves and that we need some power outside of ourselves to tell us the right way to live.
For example, predatory advertising companies, distorted religious systems, patriarchy, and dehumanizing economic systems are all forms of Systems of Domination.
Fear, Systems of Domination, and Excessive Apologizing
Predatory advertising companies try to convince us that there is something deeply flawed and disgusting about us and that they are the only ones who can fix it.
Distorted religious systems teach us that we are horribly depraved and sinful and that only by believing their doctrine can we hope to be worthy of love.
Patriarchy teaches both women and men that they are only valuable if they meet narrow and rigid stereotypes of femininity and masculinity.
Dehumanizing economic systems tell us that we are only worthy if we meet some external standard of economic productivity or net worth.
These are just a few examples of Systems of Domination. What is important to note is that Systems of Domination thrive by making us doubt ourselves and by encouraging us to live in a perpetual state of anxiety, shame, and fear that we are not measuring up.
If we life in this perpetual state, we are much easier to control, to indoctrinate, and to manipulate. This is exactly what Systems of Domination and the people involved in them want because they gain power, money, and status by controlling others. This is why they exist in the first place. (You can read more about Systems of Domination here.)
Sometimes we encounter Systems of Domination in various social institutions, but sometimes we encounter them in the mindsets and worldviews of people close to us or in groups that we belong to. Sometimes people know consciously that they are trying to dominate other people, but many people whose mindsets are pervaded by Systems of Domination do not realize they are trying to dominate others. Their need to dominate is more of a subconscious drive they have.
Why Do Some People Apologize More Than Others?
Most of us have been strongly influenced by one or more Systems of Domination from a very young age. In addition, some of us are more susceptible to the shaming and dehumanizing messages of Systems of Domination. I believe that people who are extremely sensitive and who pick up implicit messages more quickly than others are often more deeply harmed by Systems of Domination.
If you find yourself apologizing all the time and to everyone, here is a message for you today:
You are absolutely allowed to be a human being, to make mistakes, and to have bad days. Making mistakes, even big ones, is normal. You are beautifully unique and have a one-of-a-kind mind, body, and spirit. You also have a beautiful light inside you which is your true self. It is your Wise Self, and it contains goodness, wisdom, compassion, and creativity.
While you can look to wise and loving people outside you for guidance, it is also incredibly important that you learn to trust your own Wise Self. The more you learn to connect with and trust your Wise Self, the more you express your light in the world. This is when you fully become yourself. The world desperately needs your light.
So, if you act out of darkness or harmful ignorance (which all of us do sometimes), certainly apologize to people. But don’t apologize for being human. Don’t apologize for making natural human mistakes. Above all else, don’t apologize for showing up more powerfully in the world. We need you.
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The liberating truth at the heart of all good religious systems and doctrines is that all people are a beautiful ray of God’s light and that we are all created in God’s image. This image is the truest thing about us, and we can never lose it. Whenever we remember and become more connected with this light inside of us, the more whole, healthy, and fully ourselves we become. This is the Good News: In connecting with God’s light, we connect with our true selves as well, and we are liberated from all our darkness and despair. We are also liberated to love one another more fully and powerfully. You can read more about this here.
 I think there are other reasons why some people are more susceptible to the harmful messages of Systems of Domination, but these are two of the reason.