I'm Letting Go Of My Need To Always Be Right And Learning How To Apologize (And Mean It)

Historically, I’d been an expert at apologizing, which isn't the same as saying "I'm sorry."
Publish date:
June 26, 2013
friendship, I'm sorry, apologizing

Over the past few years I’ve undergone paradigm shifts in my thinking, reshaping my behaviour. Some of these shifts have been around how I publicly identify myself ideologically – I’m finally comfortable with calling myself a Feminist (with a capital "F") and happy to make people feel uncomfortable if they dislike it.

Even my attitude toward shopping has changed massively. I used to shop a lot. Now I shop less, because I realised I was filling my life with clothes because I was empty in places that no one could see.

And finally, after being the child that barely ate, I am now a foodie. One who believes that without cake, champagne and chicken our world would be a dark, horrible place.

The most difficult change? I let go of my need to be right.

I love to debate. I liked being right. I reveled in intellectual sparring. I recognize now that on some level, I loved arguing because it provided me an opportunity to win. And when you’re losing in other arenas of life, winning a debate (however pointless) can be incredibly affirming.

Then it happened - I was the recipient of the intellectual humiliation I’d liberally handed out for years. Which was a horrible and great thing. It sharpened my mind and cut my heart. I realized what it is to be made to feel small, just because someone wants to arrogantly convey a futile point. Their urge to make a point means they dismiss your feelings, the basic need for you to feel like you’re worth something.

I briefly worked on a project with a manager who took pleasure in putting me and everyone around them in their place. They were viciously intelligent - literally. Nothing anyone said could match their point of view and they used their vast knowledge against you if you attempted to suggest an alternative point of view. Eventually, I stopped speaking up because part of me was afraid to.

I lost my need to be right because I realized that most of the time I was wrong. And to spend my life constantly proving the merit of my inchoate, myopic opinions, meant I was losing opportunities to learn something else. Something more dazzling or it could be something banal. Either way, my attachment to ideas that had room for development meant my view of the world wasn’t expanding at the rate it could.

At the same time I abandoned my need to be right, I grasped the power of asking for forgiveness and saying the words “I’m sorry.” Historically, I’d been an expert at apologizing, which isn't the same as saying "I'm sorry". My apologies were formal and guarded. They would be delivered in a tone that suggested a concession had been made on my part.

When I said, “I apologize,” I knew precisely what I was doing. I knew if I said, “I’m sorry” from my essence and with all my truth, it required vulnerability, humility and the type of strength that to the untrained eye seems like weakness. If my sorry was rejected, it would mean that I’d shown how much I cared and it didn’t matter (enough) to them. I was a risk taker, but I’d rather wear flat shoes for a year than take that risk. Sadly, I’d let cold apologies govern my relationships when they were in desperate need of a warm "I'm sorry" instead.

When I merely apologized, I made the healing process about me.

“I’m sorry” alongside “I love you” are the two phrases in the English language closest to a panacea. And when those words are said with earnestness, transparency and the resolve to do better - they can fix seemingly irreparable relationships.

Recently a friend and I argued. I felt she wasn’t there for me when I needed her and she felt I hadn’t communicated a need was there. Both of us were right about how we felt. Unfortunately I didn’t covey my point well. In my effort to be honest, I’d forgotten to be loving.

The next day I picked up the phone and told her I’m sorry. Her response? “I know. I am too.”

We’ve moved on from the argument. We’re closer than we were before.

It was only after reflecting on the argument, that it dawned on me that now I’d lost the need to be right, and was able to say sorry - I was free.

Free to restart relationships I believed were broken. Free to pick up the phone and call family members who though living, feel like ghosts. Free to know that when I screw up, I’m bold enough to say I’m sorry.