I’ve been told by numerous people on numerous occasions that I apologize too much.
My first response to their words is usually “I’m sorry,” which is just proof of what I’ve always known: my mouth often engages before my brain does.
At other times, I’m admitting my imperfections and mistakes.
That’s how I was raised.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents never engaged in guilt parenting. They did, however, set expectations that my brother and I understood consequences and accepted responsibility for our words and actions.
I’ve held on to a memory of my mother complaining about an individual for whom she held very little respect. “There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes,” Mom said. “Everyone makes mistakes. But you are likely to create more problems when you don’t take responsibility for your mistakes.”
Of everything my mom has said, those words have probably had the greatest impact.
I’ve lived by them, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I have a difficult time understanding people who never take responsibility for their mistakes.
Sometimes, though, I do feel as though I should apologize for those feelings., especially because I’m a social worker who shouldn’t judge others.
I work for an absolutely wonderful organization with a mission to reduce poverty and advocate for people who are struggling. The stories my co-workers and I hear on a daily basis are often heart-breaking. Life is unfair, and we serve people who generally draw the short straw.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard an elderly woman apologize for even walking through our doors or listened to individuals who have nowhere to go because they have aged out of the social service system after being abandoned by parents who were abusive or addicts or simply had no interest in their children. We see people with no support system and few resources who are doing their best to live one day to the next and to contribute what they can.
Just last week, I was handed an envelope with a dollar bill, a few nickels and a handful of pennies. It was given to us by a gentleman who had received hygiene and cleaning supplies from our personal care closet. He couldn’t give much, but he gave something.
Unfortunately, we also see people who take no responsibility for their situation and instead want to blame others.
Sometimes they blame their employer for firing them, Sometimes they blame a diagnosis of anger management issues for losing their temper at work and therefore losing their job. And sometimes, they blame staff at my organization for disrespecting them when we ask about changes they might make to improve their circumstances.
My co-workers and I get frustrated with such individuals – not because they are angry with us but because, for some reason, they think admitting to mistakes is a weakness rather than a strength.
We try to change their perspective, but we often fail. Despite that, we won’t give up on anyone who walks through our doors. Our personal support systems never gave up on us, never allowed us to sell ourselves short and, most importantly, taught us the importance of both accepting responsibility and learning from our mistakes.
I want to provide those same gifts to others, especially my own children, who I hope will someday appreciate them.
In the meantime, I will never apologize for my belief that we can only move forward when we accept all of the missteps we’ve made and decide to take steps in a different direction instead.