Based on the assumption that I am failing to meet everyone’s expectations, I find myself saying “sorry” all the time. Though I still know I am ‘enough,’ at least on a cosmic level, in an every day, nuts-and-bolts kind of way, I often feel like I am falling short. As a result, I find myself apologizing all the time, and quite frankly, I am sick of saying “I’m sorry!”
I say sorry to God if I get distracted during my prayers. I say sorry to Tim if I haven’t shaved my legs in a few days (oh, let’s be honest, a week or two). I say sorry to my kids when I run out of their favorite breakfast foods. I say sorry as I head out the door to work and sorry if I get home late. I say sorry I can’t buy you that; sorry I can’t donate more; sorry I can’t stay later; sorry I can’t talk; sorry I can’t show up at all. Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!
Does anyone else have this problem?
One of my all time favorite lines from Seinfeld is from their trip to India. George and Jerry get in an argument and although Jerry apologizes profusely, George is having none of it. He is so mad, he spits out, “You can stuff your sorries in a sack, mister!”
That is what I would like to do with all my sorries. I’d like to stuff them in a sack, take them down to the river and drown them.
I am not even sure what all my sorries mean. An apology should be offered to a party who has been wronged by one of your actions, or choices, so when did I start thinking that saying “No” was a synonym for wrongdoing? When did I start thinking that my not-so-terrible choices warrant an apology?
Today, I am making a pledge to not say, “I’m sorry.” Just for today, I am banishing that word from my vocabulary. If I make a real mistake, then I will apologize, but I will not use that word.
From here on out, I will not allow “Sorry!” to be my automatic response every time I cannot be every thing to every body.
Writing that last line, I have my “aha” moment. How in the world did I get it in my head that I could be everything to everybody all the time?
Will you please excuse me while I go take off this messiah complex and slip into something more comfortable?
Ah, my own skin, much better.
It’s clear how closely my sorries are tied to my Superego. Psychologists say that’s the part of us that aims for perfection. I say it’s the part of us that believes we need to be ‘super.’ Author Rob Bell writes that we each have a “Super,” living inside of us: a super-mother, a super-man, a super-worker, a super-volunteer. You get the picture. (He also writes that we should take it out back and shoot it. It’s the only way we will ever be free.)
When we are young, we are simply ourselves, but the “Supers” come on hard and fast. As a kid, I needed to be a “Super-student,” able to get straight A’s in a single bound. As a teen, I secretly wanted to be a “Super-model.” As a young wife and mother, I aimed for “Super-woman,” a perfect balance of Martha Stewart, Mother Goose and Playboy bunny. The avalanche of sorries that come out of my mouth are a clue that I’ve finally maxed out. Instead of dropping one impossible image of perfection for the next, I’ve just kept piling them on. Currently, I’m trying to add one more (as yet undefined) “Super-something” to the mix and I’m just not up to the task.
Repeating “Sorry” is my coping mechanism, but I’m willing to try something new. The next time I want to say, “Sorry,” I am going to smile instead. I am going to repeat a mantra I picked up from the poetic Anthony de Mello, SJ.
“Behold God beholding you… and smiling.”
It reminds me that I do not need to be perfect. That good really is good enough. That whatever else I do, or don’t do, God is smiling at me (and at you too.) I can drop the mask. There is only Ali, and I don’t need to apologize for being human, for having limited time, talent, or treasure. I have a feeling that if I can remember to smile, instead of reaching for that all-too-easy “sorry,” it will feel absolutely super.