The belief that “apologizing is weak” is a crazy notion that is harming countless relationships. Having this belief sets a person up to defend, deflect or rationalize their behavior. In essence, s/he will do anything except apologize, dare to be accountable or be courageous enough to own her/his mistakes. The irony in this belief is not lost on me. How is it possible that people believe that lying, defending, spinning the facts, and blaming others, in an effort to avoid admitting your own errors, is a sign of strength? That is ludicrous thinking. Anyone can lie, blame others and refuse to admit their mistakes.
Only those who have a strong enough sense of self and a solid sense of self worth are courageous enough to own their mistakes and genuinely do what they can to repair them. Daring to own our mistakes requires a certain level of health, courage and confidence that few people have. Too many people can’t handle looking at themselves. Too many people can’t handle receiving honest feedback about their own behavior that was hurtful to someone or off in some way. Too many people are too afraid to admit their humanity. They fear that if they acknowledge their mistakes, others will see them as less than—or they themselves will feel less than. What too few people realize is that feedback is a gift that helps us grow—if we’re brave enough to let it in, own it and learn from it.
It’s frustrating to be on the other side of defensiveness. Constantly getting angry and verbally attacking those who dare to be honest about being upset and hurt by you is an immature response to an adult problem. Refusing to acknowledge your behavior doesn’t fool the other person into thinking you didn’t do it. Not being accountable doesn’t pull a loved one closer to you. Spinning things and blaming the other person for the very thing on which you’re being called out doesn’t lead to a greater level of admiration or respect for you. All these moves lead to greater distance. When you show people that you are incapable of taking in feedback, you teach them to treat you with kid gloves—not because you’re so strong, but to the contrary—because you act as if you’re not strong enough to handle a tough issue like a grown up.
Step up. Grow up. Toughen up. Apologizing isn’t weak—it’s relational. Defending, rationalizing or justifying your actions isn’t endearing—it’s off-putting. And refusing to be accountable for your mistakes isn’t courageous—it’s weak.
All human beings make mistakes; only the bravest can acknowledge those mistakes, apologize for them, repair them and learn from them. It’s time you decide on which side of the equation you want to fall—the side of true strength and courage or the side that needs to be treated with kid gloves because “you can’t handle the truth.” I have faith that you CAN handle the truth. Step up and show your loved ones you can, too.
Challenge: If you struggle with being accountable, apologizing or acknowledging your mistakes—step up. Trust that you are strong enough to acknowledge your actions and repair them. No one likes to be in a relationship with someone who never says they’re sorry and who is constantly defensive. It’s too taxing.