All Apologies: How Often Is Too Often to Say We’re Sorry?
I apologize a lot when I train jiu jitsu. When I CrossFit, too. Sometimes it’s completely warranted. “Coach, I’m sorry I’m late to class. I ran into traffic.” Absolutely appropriate. “Hey, spotter friend, I’m sorry I yelled at you to help me when I failed on my bench press. I just got a little freaked out when the bar started downward toward my neck.” Understandable and straightforward.
But I also apologize for things that may not really require an apology. Sometimes I take a little time to figure out a movement when it’s my turn to drill. That isn’t really anything to apologize for, though I do sometimes. Ditto brushing past a fellow student as he or she is sitting on that weightlifting bench writing notes. No real need for a mea culpa. Maybe an “excuse me,” or just a hand on the shoulder as I squeeze by. But I’ll apologize for that, too. I’ve even been known to apologize for executing movements correctly, because doing so makes my partner have to tap (though I let go immediately, of course), or for grabbing a kettlebell in a workout before someone who’s right behind me, when the coach set it up as a first come-first serve situation before the workout even started.
I started to pay attention to this, to wonder why I apologize for things that I wasn’t sure actually require an apology. And I started to wonder both 1) what other people do and 2) what my reaction is to what they do. Let me emphasize, this is about apologies for things that don’t really require an apology. I know there’s probably room for interpretation about this, but hopefully you know what I mean and what the difference is between the major infraction and the minor non-incident. (For instance, if you elbow someone in the face while rolling or cut someone off during a time trial run, you know what to do.)
After some observation, I have found that the answer to 1) is that different people do different things. Some people apologize as much as I do, and others are way on the other end of the spectrum. Interestingly, the answer to 2) is that my reaction, what I think and feel about that person, doesn’t change much regardless of whether an apology is forthcoming. And what I think and feel is usually nothing, one way or another.
Thus, lately, when I feel the urge to apologize, I have taken to trying to make myself wait a beat and see if the situation really requires one. I’m not always successful, but the experiment has been eye opening. Sometimes I have to fill the silence - it’s almost pathological. But in those cases, I try to make myself say, “Whoops.” If I make the game-day decision that “Whoops” doesn’t suffice, of course I have a “my bad” at the ready, several, even. But as often as not - maybe more often than not in my case - it does suffice, which was a revelation.
So why do I have my knickers all in a twist about this? It just started to bother me that I leap so quickly to apologizing. It didn’t seem to be that much of a stretch to go from “I’m sorry for all of these things that don’t require an apology” to “I’m sorry for these aspects of myself that I don’t think measure up” to “I’m sorry for existing.” I believe that whatever you repeat and dwell on is what you end up experiencing. And I don’t want to spend my life being sorry. I want to apologize for the things that warrant apologies and move on. And when the situation doesn’t require an apology, I want to refrain from introducing one.
Our athletic endeavors and the contexts within which we pursue them are supposed to make us feel good about ourselves, not be minefields booby-trapped with ways for us to beat ourselves up. So I am not going to apologize for trying to apologize less.
(Who am I kidding? Yes I am. But I’m going to TRY not to!)