When it’s okay to say ‘I’m Sorry’

I’m sorry are two words often misused. Being sorry is defined as “feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.” Step back and think; how many times a day do you say you’re sorry without even realizing it? People need to stop apologizing for things they don’t mean. You don’t want to go out with your friend? You shouldn’t have to apologize. You have certain feelings about someone or something that someone disagrees with? Don’t say you’re sorry, you can’t help how you feel. These two words seemed to have lost there meaning a long time ago. An apology should be very powerful, not just two meaningless words that people spit out way too often.

If you’re going to waste your breathe saying you’re sorry, make sure you actually mean it. People need to understand that saying “I’m sorry” isn’t going to solve all their problems. Because of how loosely these words are used, it has completely lost it’s effect. Saying sorry, to many people, is as natural as saying hello and goodbye. No one likes to see someone upset, so their first reaction is to turn around and say they are sorry for something that an apology is not necessary for. In Spelman’s opinion,

“Moreover, apology is inappropriate if what one has done does not really constitute damage. If what I have done to you is something to be apologized for, it must be something that harms you” (Spelman 83).

She acknowledges that if you’re going to apologize than you better have done something that deserves an apology.

I find that I apologize too many times a day. It is very rare that I actually need to apologize to someone for something that actually causes damage. I have also realized, when I apologize to someone I also need to apologize to myself because I get so upset with myself that I need to find it within me to move on. As a gymnast you learn that conditioning is crucial to your success. If you do not keep up with your strength than you will not be able to get through those final skills in your bar routine, that last pass in your floor routine, or even be able to successfully complete two vaults in a row. Not conditioning is detrimental to your progress. I realized what it was like to be sorry to myself rather than to someone else when I was a gymnast. We would condition for an hour either in the beginning or the end of our daily 5 hour practice. When we would condition at the end I was already so physically exhausted I found myself pretending to do 30 pull ups while I really did 15 or saying I climbed the rope 3 times when I only climbed twice. As hard as it was I could’ve done it but I took the easy way out instead of pushing myself. When that competition season rolled around and we had to start putting routines together I found it very difficult to keep up with my team members. I managed to just get by, but I realized and was truly regretful of my decision to take the easy way out. For that I apologized to myself and my coaches who put in a lot of time and effort to get us to a new level.

Finding something that deserves a real apology isn’t too common. More times than not you’ll find yourself apologizing for something that is not worthy of one. What if apologies didn’t exist? Do you think people would be more careful of what they do knowing they could never repair the damage? I think that people are so careless because they know if someone gets hurt they can always try and make it up to them. Thinking this way is not a good idea because it leads to careless behavior. I believe that everyone should think as if they didn’t have the opportunity to apologize and maybe they will think twice before doing or saying specific things. If you are going to apologize make sure it’s worth it and make sure you are not throwing around the words ‘i’m sorry’ for something meaningless.

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Reparations vs. Apologies

In Chapter 5 of Spelman’s Repair, she goes into detail about the difference between an apology and reparations. An apology is something that you offer with the simple words ‘I’m sorry’.  Unfortunately to this day those words are thrown around way too much. People now a days say they are sorry for even the smallest things like asking a question or their physical appearance. Because people say they are sorry so often with little meaning behind it, it is very rare to find someone who is genuinely sorry for something they did. I never realized how many times I’ve apologized for something without meaning it until the day I actually had to apologize with true feelings of remorse. The day I really learned what it was like to genuinely apologize was when I was in the 6th grade and I got in a fight with my best friend. I was upset with her and called her a name behind her back; she later found out and once we made up I was so upset with myself for saying something offensive that I didn’t even mean. I spent weeks trying to make her realize how sorry I was and how much I didn’t mean it. On the other hand, you can get even with reparations. The difference between the two are the emotions behind it. With reparations, both parties don’t have to have strong emotions behind it, but with an apology the feelings must be there. A very popular debate right now is about whether or not descendants on slaves and their families should receive reparations. It is clear that slavery was wrong so many people feel that these reparations could help out the families. Before you act, in any situation, you must decide whether you sincerely apologize or whether or not you just want to make up and be even.

My best friend Alex is and has always been my best friend. When we were in the 6th grade we got in a big fight, like 6th graders, over stupid girl drama. Of course at that age everyone talks to each other and one of my peers were trying to make me say something bad about her. I fell into her trap and called her a name that I immediately regretted. Of course within minutes that girl ran over to tell her all about what I had to say and I felt terrible. I knew I didn’t mean any of it and when I saw Alex crying I knew I was so wrong. She asked me why I would say that because we were best friends and I immediately replied “I am so sorry I didn’t mean it.” I knew that it would take a lot for me to prove how sorry I was and eventually she realized that I really meant it. In chapter 5 Spelman writes

“However vicious her actions, however morally reprehensible she has been in the past, her sincere apology entitles her to credit at the bank of moral rectitude. She’s done wrong, but she knows it, accepts full responsibility for it, and regrets it” (Spelman 97).

Spelman perfectly described how I felt because I knew I was wrong and I knew I had to take responsibility for it. Luckily Alex and I were such good friends that she eventually accepted my apology and we are still best friends to this day. I am so glad I learned that very tough lesson at a young age.

No matter who you are or what you believe, you can not deny the fact that millions of African Americans were unfairly kept as slaves. I believe it is wrong and most people would agree, but there is a large debate over whether descendants of these slaves should receive reparations for what their ancestors went through. We have seen reparations be made to victims of World War II and many people want to see it again. As Spelman explains in the book,

“They are not bound to feel gratitude for the institutions that make reparations possible, nor to those who pay them. Their being entitled to and receiving reparations has no bearing on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of whatever emotions they have had and continue to have about what they had to endure” (Spelman 82).

These reparations can help out the descendants of slavery, but just because they are accepting the reparation does not mean their emotions have changed.

If you have done something wrong and want to make it right you need to decide whether you truly want to move forward and apologize or offer reparations to be even. Saying you’re sorry when you are not is not an apology. There is no apology where there is no genuine emotion behind it. As I learned when I was younger that you can’t apologize for every little thing if you don’t mean it because when the day comes that you truly mean it people might not believe you. Offering reparations is a clear way of trying to make it up to someone without both parties having to agree to move on. Spelman clearly illustrates the difference between the two and after reading I realized how relevant it is in everyday life.

Made for Men vs. Made for Women

In a world that seems as though nothing is ever perfect, the action of repairing is always relevant. Repair can be categorized as something tangible that needs to be fixed or someone who was emotionally hurt. In Elizabeth Spelmans book Repair, she describes the difference between domestic masculinity and domestic femininity. Domestic masculinity is described as the labor done by males repairing tangible items while domestic femininity is the emotional repair that women take care of. Gender roles play a big part in the difference between the two.

“But whether we focus on tool use at the workplace or in the home, we aren’t likely to find many women on the scene. Perhaps the only skilled manual repair work that easily come to mind as something that historically has fallen to women — or some women— to do, even if it is not entirely off limits to men, is  mending clothing (and in rural fishing areas, mending nets)” (Spelman 30).

When people think of masculinity they usually think things “made for men”. When they describe domestic masculinity they mean things like repairing cars, painting houses, using tools, and anything along the lines of repairing a tangible item. Because of gender roles many people don’t consider that to be a job for woman because they are too fragile.

Women usually are looked at as not being capable of doing much physical labor. When Spelman describes domestic femininity she is talking about the emotional side of repair. Woman aren’t needed to do the physical fixing, they are needed to be there to help mend relationships or something along those lines.

“The analogy between the repair of a car and the repair of a person suggests that there is a kind of repair of humans that restores them to a state of basic functioning, of being able to use their energies and skills as they see fit. For after all, when the mechanic restores the basic function of a car as a relatively safe and efficient moving vehicle, the idea is that the owner then can use it as she wishes. So, it would seem that just as cars are repaired so people can use them as they desire, people are repaired so that they can get back in basic working order, in order to get on with what they want to do” (Spelman 36).

Knowing the difference in gender roles at the time of this book, you can understand where Spelman is coming from.

Also, Spelman dives deeper into the different kind of repair for tangible items. She describes three different people: Willie, Fred, and Louise. When people think of repair they most likely just think of something being fixed, but it’s not too often that people question the different ways of repair. As for Spelman’s examples, Willie is described as a bricoleur. When something needs to be fixed he will do whatever it takes. He isn’t worried about how he fixes it, as long as in the end the item will be back to it’s working order. Next there is Fred; he restores the item with the intent to keep it authentic. When Fred is repairing something, he might not use all the original parts, but his end goal is to have the item look as closely like its original as possible. Finally, Louise is described as a conservator. Her main goal is to preserve the item and keep as many of the original parts they can. The easiest way to explain this would be to think of a clock. Sometimes a clock stops working but you don’t need knew parts, all you need is to fix the gears within. After reading Spelman’s explanations for the different types of repair it made me think about all the different types of people and their specific ways of repair. It’s very interesting to see how all different individuals can do the same task in all different ways.