Please Accept My Apology for This Post

The GiverIn Lois Lowry’s The Giver, members of a dystopian future society enact an apology ritual around even the slightest error. The wrongdoer states “I apologize for [__brief description of wrong doing__].” The wronged respond, “I accept your apology.” The apology ritual is performed between two individuals, an individual and her family, and even an individual and the entire community.

I listened to the audio book and watched the movie of The Giver within a few months of each other last year, ironically after spending considerable time deprogramming myself from continually saying “sorry.” (Unlike the characters in The Giver however, I was actually taking emotional responsibility for all the little things I was apologizing for—yikes!) My personal distancing from the “s” word and the repeat exposure to The Giver heightened my awareness to the number of colleagues constantly apologizing, directly or indirectly.

My amazingly talented colleague Ivania Stack (yup, another amazing person you should check out) and I adopted the ritual from The Giver in order to playful help all of us recognize we were either dropping the “s” word gratuitously or unnecessarily taking responsibility via an apology: we, and others, now immediately respond back with “I accept your apology.” It gets laughs and knowing nods… and I would like to think it helps. Colbert Apology Accept But let’s touch on the flip side: actually allowing your community to care for you by accepting your apologies. Last night in rehearsal, a question about whether I liked an idea the group was bandying about caught me off guard. Low on sleep, high on stress, amused by the idea but trying to think through how it would manifest in the show, my response was a strange defensive explosion of “why would you think I didn’t like it of course I do come on why are we singling me out what could I possibly be doing that would make you think otherwise!?!?!” I apologized. We moved on. At the break, I apologized directly to the question-asker again and with true sincerity she responded “I accept your apology.”

I SO NEEDED THAT. I'm Sorry It's okI needed her to accept my apology. I needed for her to recognize I made a mistake, and acknowledge she could forgive my actions and move past them. And she needed me to deal promptly, honestly, and directly with the exchange. In fact: the entire group present needed it, all fifteen of us.

This is how healthy communities are created and maintained, be they workplaces, families, or dystopian future societies: open lines of communication, personal responsibility, authenticity of voice, transparency of process. Adopting and enacting ritualistic actions, whether consciously or unconsciously, does not connect us with one another when they are devoid of meaning. Endowing actions with intension, allowing them to carry the appropriate weight, and sharing support with your colleagues—forms powerful bonds between individuals and continually reinforces them over time.

I looked around the interwebs for more on women in particular and over-apologizing. Thought I would share a few of my findings here:

Sorry, Not Sorry--Why Women Need to Stop Apologizing for Everything

I'm Sorry But I'm Not Going to Stop Apologizing

When "I'm Sorry" Is Too Much





One response to “Please Accept My Apology for This Post”

  1. Jennifer Edwards Avatar

    I love this post Rachel. Thank you. My own journey with the “s” word was the direct result of an interaction with a woman who wanted to ask me a question. (The question was “why do you shave your head” – when I had a shaved head.) She began by saying “I’m sorry,” but – then dropped “i”m sorry” between nearly every word – literally not able to complete her question because of it. This led me down a road of investigating my own relationship with “I’m sorry” – realizing I say it when either I don’t know what else to say or what really needs to be said is deep and emotional for me and / or the other person and / or stupidly honest (and possibly inappropriate – like “this it’s actually not my priority right now – I’m thinking about an argument I just had with my partner and we may be breaking up” – or “I have cramps and a throbbing headache – I’m here, but not really here…” or something like that…) that I just say, “I’m sorry,” instead – it is so much easier. It is often my way out – my filler, go-to statement to circumnavigate the hard ownership of all my other shit. Most times when I say “I’m sorry” what I really mean – and I think what you’re getting at – is “I am here now – I wasn’t a minute ago” – thanks for pulling me in, for your patience while I refocus, and for valuing my input. Thanks for not being mad at me for slipping away, or being distracted and taking out my frustrations on you (put another way thanks for “accepting my apology”).

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