A Thousand Apologies
After I asked women to share instances when men apologized to them, I realised something stood in the way of men and the word SORRY. I want to believe men are as rational & feeling as women and can see the damage done by not taking responsibility for their actions.
So what makes it possible for some men to get past their conditioning, to value a woman’s feelings more than the ego they’ve been taught to nurture & take responsibility for causing hurt? I asked men. The answers brought me much insight into the act of apology.
It’s a learning process for men. As girls, we’re taught to fear many things, which also means to know the price of things. Because boys are brought up without being held accountable, the idea that there are consequences doesn’t occur. By adulthood, the inequality felt by girls has become the rage of women.
The men who do care & feel (which I want to believe is most) feel hit by a ton of emotional debt. A lot of men’s answers to my question were about being apologetic, in general. Not apologising for specific actions. I realised this is a distinction many men have yet to make.
To a woman receiving this, it sounds like shame, not apology. Shame is not useful in remedying a situation. Our own conditioning makes us want to protect men from feeling this uncomfortable emotion. During great upset, it’s awful to feel compelled to take care of someone else when one is wounded, especially by that same person.
When I’m hurt by a man, I want to hear him apologize for that action. Not for existing or for being a man. It’s why I ask “What are you sorry for?” I want him to take responsibility to set things right. I do not want to take responsibility to comfort him, to teach him what his feelings mean. Because that’s not fair on me, already hurt. Because it’s exhausting. And because in most cases, my hurt goes unresolved while he assumes the situation is ‘solved’ because he said sorry.
I don’t need a thousand apologies. So what does a woman need when a man hurts her? That’s the stuff of another post. Leave your thoughts in the comments because I’m still pondering this.
For me (speaking from my perspective, as a man), saying “sorry” is one thing but true remorse is shown when a commitment is made to try and change the behaviors that led to the apology in the first place. Which doesn’t mean that one will be perfect–toxic thought or action patterns are not always easy for some to break–but for me “sorry” without an effort to improve in the future seems meaningless. It’s taken me time to learn that but I think it’s important.
That’s a valuable thought, Brendan. Thank you for sharing that.