Last year, I was in a pickle. I had no idea what to give up as a measure of sacrifice for Lent and had to phone a friend for a lifeline. For most, the thought of Lent brings up giving up something that you’ll actually miss. It’s supposed to show discipline, dedication. As a child, many of us gave up candy only to return to the gluttony of sweetness with a basket full of sugary crap on Easter. More recently as an adult, I’ve given up habits. Coffee. Laziness. Cursing. Yah, that last one didn’t go very well. Neither did giving up coffee come to think of it. Cranky much? Yes, I was. While some years worked better than others, I often failed.
This year, I had to think again: what could I sacrifice? What would I do that would not only improve my well being, but really be something that would require a significant change in behavior on my part. I came to a simple conclusion:
I would give up saying “I’m sorry.”
What the WHAT?
Why would you stop apologizing? Sounds selfish, right? Making this all about me? You’re right.
I am making this about me. About being a better me. I need to remember that I can’t please everyone, and when other people are not satisfied with something, I shouldn’t have to apologize for it. I shouldn’t be beating myself up feeling guilt and creating negative feelings about myself over and over and over again when I don’t need to do so.
If I did my best, which by the way – will vary and have different levels and definitions on any given day (and sometimes throughout the day), then why should I apologize for something when I didn’t do anything wrong? If I didn’t get something done fast enough because I wanted to do it right, didn’t I still complete it? If I worked hard on a project and it needed revisions, or it didn’t work out, I still did my best work possible. If I didn’t clean the house, it’s still a home, right? Work. Home. Husband. Mother. Friends. Strangers.
I’ve become conditioned to serving others. Jump when they ask. When I don’t jump high enough, or move fast enough for their needs, I apologize for it. Why do I do this? I can’t find a good answer. So, I’m done. Not doing it anymore.
Don't get me wrong. If I do something that really is my own f*ck-up, I'll admit it. I'll apologize. But saying "Sorry" just because I failed to meet your expectations? Nope. Not gonna happen.
According to the Catholic Church, the reason to “give something up” is to start a conversion. A change. This is a conversion. While the goal is to abstain from sin, I have to find that I have to stop sinning against myself. I have enough self-criticism and self-guilt for a whole host of things, including not “being enough,” to last a lifetime.
For me, there’s only one way to stop adding to those negative feelings. I’m going to start by stopping the apologies. Knowing that I did my best. Feeling better about myself. Loving myself more. In the end, when that happens, and I can fully love myself, then unconditional love of others can follow. Isn’t that what being a good Catholic is all about anyway?
So, for those that don’t agree with my Lenten sacrifice?