Dangers of Apologies

03/05/2015 12:19 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2015
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There are certain words that we are taught when we are young are bad words and words we should never say. It goes without saying that "curse" words fall under this category. Everyone is taught that different words are inherently bad. I was taught that I should never say suck. If you want to say something sucks, say it stinks instead. My grandpa told me never to say hell, but to say heck instead, but my parents did not care, so I said hell anyway. I was taught that crap was not really a curse word and a much better alternative than some other expletives.

There are some words that we are taught when we are young that are inherently good words and words that should be said if we have any manners. A phrase every good little boy and girl are taught from the time they could talk is, "I'm sorry." When you do something bad, when you hurt somebody, when you say something mean, you say you are sorry. It's the right thing to do. It's the polite thing to do. It's the good thing to do.

Until it's not anymore. Learning those words quickly becomes a gateway to an apologetic attitude. I'm not saying that teaching your children how to apologize is a bad thing, but that phrase should come with a warning label.

I realized this recently I was talking about plans I had after graduation. I talked about traveling to Los Angeles during my senior year and finding an apartment there. I talked about wanting to travel the world, to report on international news, to write novels and screenplays in places across the seas. After a while, I realized my friend had not said anything for a long time and that I was talking. In my mind, I was hurting him by talking for so long. I must be bothering him if he's not responding. I did something bad by talking so much and not letting him get a word in edgewise. I did something bad therefore the only right thing to do is to apologize and then shut up, which is exactly what I did.

He then asked me why I always apologize, which I took as a surprise. He said it was something he'd come to notice about me, something that I did not notice myself. I apologized for everything. It's raining again? My bad, I'm sorry. You failed your test? My bad, I'm sorry. You got into a fight with your friend? My bad, I'm sorry.

Although I'd never seen it before, I saw it now. I apologized for things I thought I did wrong. The simple act of asking, "How are you?" could hurt someone. I called upon bad things that people wanted to forget, like getting caught in the rain or failing their latest test or fighting with their friends, and because I called upon these events back to their memory, I did something bad. I was apologizing for inquiring into someone's well-being. Which is insane.

Over time, I have tried to get the words "I'm sorry" out of my vocabulary. Sure, if I actually do something bad, I can call upon those "good" words again. But I consider it a sort of mark of pride when I think about how far I can go with saying those words. One day without apologizing for existing, two days without apologizing for existing, three days without apologizing for existing... when I get to double digits, I basically want to throw a party for myself. I treated myself like I was something bad, like I was something to apologize for.

No one should apologize for existing. No one should apologize for being in someone else's life. We censor ourselves for a lot of things. We know not to curse in front of our parents or grandparents. But we are not taught that "I'm sorry" can be bad words themselves, when they become the words on which we base our existence. It's about time we learned that.