Say you are sorry

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(For my grandchildren, continued)

Ever notice how hard it is for the narcissist or other abuser to say he/she is sorry? We have all heard some very poor apologies.

I’m sorry, but it was your fault.

I’m sorry, but I had no choice.

I’m sorry you took it that way.

I’m sorry someone else did that.

Almost anything besides, I’m sorry for how I hurt you. It was wrong.

Abusers think apologies make them weak. It puts them in an inferior position in the relationship. This is especially true when they need to make a public apology. So, you will hear excuses in the guise of an apology or even accusations as part of the pretense.

Yes, I suppose it does take a strong person to apologize. But that strength comes from acknowledging the truth—and the truth sets you free. To be free is to be strong.

When you hurt another person, and we all do from time to time, think about what you did from their point of view. Think of how your action may have felt to them. Were you critical? Were you cruel? Did you disrespect them? Did you take something from them? Admit what you did from the other person’s perspective. Then, show that person you understand by how you apologize.

If you wrap blame in your apology, or excuses, you show that you neither understand nor care about what you did. Instead, say the words you would want them to say if they had done it to you. You might get it wrong, of course. Then you have to listen more carefully to what they say. That’s a good thing.

To be humble is to be strong. The abuser who cannot apologize, who cannot afford to look foolish or weak, is not strong. In fact, the one who can’t apologize is the weak person. To face your own sin or error is strength.

I learned this many years ago and found it to be both freeing and powerful. An appropriate apology, after listening to the hurt or accusation of someone else, cuts right to the heart of the conflict. It can heal a relationship, and that’s strength.

But listen: don’t lie as you apologize. You don’t have to admit to something you didn’t do or think. You can admit your real motivations without compromising yourself. If you didn’t mean to hurt someone, you can say that even as you acknowledge that you did hurt them. And, if you meant to hurt them, say that. Tell the truth. They will know when you are lying anyway.

And don’t grovel. That’s what the abuser wants you to do. That’s what he/she would hate to do. There is a difference between humility and self-degradation. The abuser sees them as the same thing, but you know better. Making a mistake, even committing a sin, does not make you less of a person. Admitting the truth reveals your understanding and acceptance of yourself in this world. That’s strength.

Live in humility and in truth. Remember that your actions and words can hurt others. Take responsibility for what you did or said without feeling weak and yielding yourself to more abuse. Everyone hurts others. Confessing that you do is simply admitting the truth. We lean toward selfishness, perhaps even cruelty. Admitting that allows you to rise above those things.

The ability to apologize is a power that reveals your heart to others and brings healing.


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5 responses to “Say you are sorry

  1. “You don’t have to admit to something you didn’t do or think. … You can admit your real motivations without compromising yourself. If you didn’t mean to hurt someone, you can say that even as you acknowledge that you did hurt them.”
    A narcissist can throw false blame at you all the time. Sometimes, you almost can’t even talk to them without them being offended, even if you weren’t being offensive. You are walking on eggshells. When I can see that they are entirely in a state of their own making, why isn’t it OK to say to them, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” I don’t know what else to say.
    I’d be interested in Pastor Dave’s thoughts on this, and hearing from anyone else who has been in that spot.

    • Most conversations with narcissists will be both fruitless and frustrating. You are right that they will try to get you to accept blame for everything, even their own feelings. Even when those feelings are phony. The best thing to say, in my opinion, would be, “No, I won’t accept blame for that.” The truth is that you are not sorry they feel that way because 1) it was not your fault; 2) he/she probably does not truly feel that way; and 3) you already know you won’t win in that exchange. So, don’t give anything and don’t accept anything.

      Now, as I say that, I certainly understand your concern and choice. What you want is for this nauseating conversation to be over. If that shuts the narcissist up and ends it, then whatever. I will never judge another person for what they say to the narcissist in the moment of crisis. They are so intimidating and so ruthless, they lie and manipulate so easily, that almost whatever it takes to get out is justified. So, if that works, go for it. Some people are able to just walk away. Some will stand up and fight. Few of these choices are either good or satisfying. And, of course, the narcissist knows that.

      • Thanks for giving me a good alternative.

      • Georgette

        My sister is a narcissist. I had confided in a friend about how she treated me. That friend told another friend that was a co-worker of my sister. One day my sister and that co-worker got into an argument and that co-worker told my sister what I told my friend. Then one day I got yelled at for almost two hours! I just stood there and took the abuse. When my sister finally shut up for a minute, I said: I’m sorry you were embarrassed by what she told you but I’m not sorry for what I said because it was true…..then I got yelled at again for another 30 minutes. Then after my sister got it out of her system she wanted to go get some chocolate like nothing ever happened! We rarely talk now, because I refuse to have her control me.

  2. Beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

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