Is it too late now to say sorry? Not according to Amy Poehler.

Bet you thought I was going to say Justin Bieber, eh? Though he also has done some great apologizing lately, he never inspired me to do the same. I read “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler recently, and found so many little pieces to take and keep in my back pocket for when I needed advice or reassurance. One great line she says in her book is “good for her, not for me,” which I’ve sort of adopted as one of my mantras in life. It’s a really great way to look at things when someone does something you think is stupid. There are a couple people in my life, who, when I’m around or think about them, I have to have that phrase on loop in my head for. It works, and you should try it. Good for her, not for me. There’s a whole treasure chest of gems like that hidden and blatantly laid out in the book. One of the more blatant treasures is about saying sorry.

The chapter “Sorry, Sorry, Sorry” is about exactly what you think it’s about. It’s about saying sorry, and more specifically, about how to say sorry when it may be too little too late, or when you didn’t even know you were doing something to be sorry for. When I read that chapter it struck a chord deep in my soul. It was all so true. We say we’re sorry so often, but seldom do we say it when it’s really needed. To the person whose grocery cart is in your way: “sorry!”, when you bump into someone on the street: “sorry!”, when you press the door close button but are pretending to press the door open button on an elevator as someone runs towards it: “sorry!”

So many sorrys, so many ingenuine and so many said because that’s just what we do. Especially as Canadians… but when it’s time to give a genuine apology, that doesn’t come so easily. It’s really hard to put your ego aside and admit you were wrong. It’s so much easier to come up with excuses, or downplay what happened, or just forget about it completely. But what I’ve learned from my own experiences with guilt, is that when you’re sitting quietly and have nothing going on, your brain will start to put on a show where it will replay the offending experience over and over.

So when I read this chapter in Amy’s book, my brain went straight to work putting on a show for me. Every time my head was quiet the movie reel would start and I would have to relive a time in my life that I’d been trying to forget. Sleeping wasn’t even safe anymore. I had so many dreams where I would run into certain people, or be confronted RE my behavior. Yet somehow I still tried so hard to push everything aside. I would tell myself that it wasn’t my fault… that things happened how they happened. It was a difficult time in my life, so if anything I should have been receiving sympathy. Or I would tell myself that I know it wasn’t right, but it doesn’t matter. I never have to see those people again, and I’m sure they’ve forgotten all about it, or don’t even care, or don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. It doesn’t work. So I went back to Amy and her chapter on saying sorry, and I knew what I had to do.

But I haven’t done it yet. I still haven’t said I’m sorry. I’m going to. And I’m working on it. I’ve been drafting up a letter to send to the ones I feel I’ve wronged, but it is really hard to find the right words, especially when so much time has passed, and it is very overdue. I keep re-writing it, wanting it to sound right, wanting to make sure they know that it was not my intention, that I feel really bad, that it was a difficult time for me, and if I could I would have acted differently. I want them to know that I didn’t mean to hurt them. Then I stop myself and remember a nice little image Amy paints when she says, “apologies have nothing to do with you. They are balloons in the sky. They may never land. They may even choke a bird.” It’s so very true. I’m not apologizing with the hopes that I will receive praise for being so mature, or be told I have nothing to be sorry for. I’m apologizing because it is the right thing to do, and it doesn’t matter if I’m forgiven or not. I need to do this because I was raised better than to run away in shame.

So I’m working on it. And maybe I’ll let you know the outcome of it all, maybe I wont. It honestly doesn’t even matter. The only thing that matters is that I can be accountable for my own actions and behavior.

I don’t know everyone in this world, but I think that we all have moments in our lives when we know we were wrong or hurt someone when we did not mean to. And I think we all hold onto these moments, or rather these moments hold onto us, and sit deep inside us becoming guilt and shame, when we could so easily be freed from this guilt and shame, just by saying “I’m sorry.”

“Shame makes people abandon their children and drink themselves to death. It also keeps us from true happiness. An apology is a glorious release.” — Amy Poehler


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