The Sorry Habit


March 7th, 2018


Last week “The Beast from the East” (a huge snowstorm) hit our British shores. I assumed the forecasts leading up to the snowfall were exaggerated—a reaction to Michael Fish’s infamous reassurance shortly before the 1987 cyclone that no storm was on the way.

Driving home late on Monday night, a blizzard began. Fluffy snowflakes whirled around the car. Road markings were erased, signposts invisible. It felt like I was driving blind, my visual reference points obliterated by the swirling snow. When I arrived home I felt relieved, but was holding so much tension in my body that I resolved not to get back in the car until conditions had improved.

The snow continued to fall during the night and throughout the next day. My world was diminished, silenced, blanketed in white. Opening the curtains on Wednesday morning it was obvious I wouldn’t be able to get out, so I set about cancelling my commitments, which included a yoga class I was due to teach that evening.

I texted my students one by one. This is where “sorry” comes into play! (Finally, I hear you cry!) Obviously I can’t play God with the weather. These conditions were beyond my control. And yet I had to force myself to not apologize. This set me thinking about this five letter word we throw around so unthinkingly.

Sorry, I believe, has several meanings. It has become a habit, a throw-away word we use to avoid having to express ourselves more clearly. It can be a way of communicating “I failed” or “I’m not good enough”. It can infer a feeling of empathy. I wanted to let my students know that even though there was nothing that could be done about my inability to show up at the front of class to teach, I felt their disappointment at not getting their weekly yoga fix. That I understood what their practice means to them. That I felt their disappointment.

When I did my yoga teacher training we were encouraged to replace “I’m sorry” with “I’m sexy” as a way of kicking the habit. This isn’t something that comes easily to a Brit in her mid-50s! That said, it was an effective way of making us realize how often we do ourselves down: I encourage you try it.

So why we are saying “I’m sorry” so often? Is it a get-out clause? Are we not making the effort required for a task, knowing we can apologize and hope that in doing so we’ll be forgiven and everything will be alright? Are we apologizing for having opinions? For taking up space?

Let’s work towards a more mindful, heartfelt use of “sorry”. Let’s take a mindful pause before we utter the word. Let’s use it when needed, as an expression of empathy and compassion. “Sorry” shouldn’t be totally removed from our language, it should be used sparingly, and with integrity. Let’s help sorry regain its power and true meaning, and in doing so, regain our own.

Julia Hoskins