Why Some People Can't Say "I'm Sorry"

"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." —Friedrich Nietzsche

Apologizing is one of the most humbling gestures for a human being. When we tell someone that we’re sorry, we are admitting fault, regretting an action or comment made, and acknowledging their feelings all at the same time. But, as I’m sure you have noticed, there are some people out there that either have a hard time apologizing, or even a complete inability to apologize. And, this really got me thinking about how we should handle those instances. Do we let it go? Do we hold a grudge? Why can’t some people just say that they’re sorry??

People that can’t say that they’re sorry refuse to do so because they don’t want to take accountability. When we apologize for something, we are owning up to a mistake we made. Therefore, a simple apology can act as a major threat to someone’s ego. The person that refuses to apologize doesn’t want their image of themselves or their image to others to be damaged by admitting fault. But, the irony is that by avoiding saying “I’m sorry”, they are hurting their image in an entirely different way. When an apology is needed to rectify a situation and someone is incapable of apologizing, the situation will remain unfixed. When someone doesn’t apologize when they’ve made a mistake, they are making a loud statement that they don’t care about the other person’s feelings. The most important thing is for the survival of that person’s ego, so any hurt feelings are quickly brushed to the side.

When you are on the receiving end of this kind of interaction and it’s your own feelings that are ignored, it can be extremely frustrating. But, what are our choices here? We could confront the person and ask for an apology, but if they are concerned with protecting their ego then would the words “I’m sorry”, even change anything at that point? If they only continue with the same behavior or actions anyway, then that would only be an empty apology, which is worthless. I truly believe that the only option is to accept that the person does not want to take accountability. If someone doesn’t want to be self-aware and grow, then that is their given right. We cannot control the actions of other people. So, rather than trying to show the other person the mirror, we should focus on our own image in the mirror. I can’t change this person; but, what is it that I can do?

Holding a grudge is counter-productive because it means that you are still trying to hold some sort of control over another person. “I’m angry because they won’t apologize, how dare they not acknowledge their wrong-doing”. This is also another example of being imprisoned by the ego. When we are bitter or resentful, it’s because we are resisting rather than accepting what is. Does resenting the person for being a let-down change anything? Does it make them a better person? Does it make us feel better? No, it doesn’t. It only stands in the way of us healing and moving forward. But, just because you can accept where someone is doesn’t mean that you have to accept their behavior.

If the person’s actions is affecting you in a detrimental way, then that might mean that we have to make some sort of change. Cutting off an unhealthy relationship, a toxic friendship, or a negative work environment—whatever that may be. You don’t have to continue being disappointed by someone. We all have choices. They’ve made theirs, and we can make ours.