Death of the apology

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on April 01, 2020

I’m officially calling for the death of the apology.

Unless you give your apologies some conscious thought, it’s very easy to fall into an “I’m sorry” act. Why is this so often the case? Saying “I’m sorry” is easy, it makes us feel better to faint regret and, sometimes, it might even satisfy the other person. Saying the words “I’m sorry” is an almost-effortless way of identifying our mistake, minimizing our guilt, and moving on.

If apologizing is so easy and it has all that effect, why not walk around as an Apology Robot, covering for all your mistakes and feeling good about yourself in the process? Well, because it’s not that easy. Your apologies, like the robot, are going to run out of battery. Kristin Beale

That’s just a creative way to say: every “sorry” after your initial one loses meaning; after the second “I’m sorry,” your sincerity thins, and you run the risk of annoying everyone in earshot. Really.

So why am I picking on the apology so much? The answer: it’s tired.

I remember when I was in middle school in the ‘90s, back when the radio and $14 CDs were the only ways to listen to music. When an artist I liked, probably *NYSNC or Backstreet Boys, released a new single, the radio would play it once every hour, I bought the CD to play on repeat, and the chords became the foreground of my life – at least for the first week. After 7 consecutive days of repeated lyrics and squeaky voices from the boys, the song was no longer special and actually, I didn’t want to hear it at all.

Same thing goes for apologies. It’s sometimes necessary to apologize, but one time will do the trick. I’m sorrying” people to death will not only annoy everyone in earshot, but it also wastes time, that could be spent reaching a resolution. The solution to the Pandemic of Over-apologizing is to say “sorry” once then make the change, fix your mistake, or move on.

On a slightly sillier and less likely relatable note, there are many times when people unnecessarily apologize to me. Whether this happens because I, a young woman in a wheelchair, am a less common sight than my ambulatory peers and it makes people uncomfortable, or because they really are apologetic for so many things, is a wonder.

People shout to me “I’m sorry!” and jump clear off the sidewalk for me to pass. We can both fit on the path at the same time, sir.

Someone has run from behind me saying “I’m sorry for not opening the door,” as if it’s their responsibility and I’m depending on them to do it.

People have even apologized to me when I bump into them with my wheelchair. It’s cool that I have that much of an immunity but, also, c’mon.

When I tell people my story of a Jet Ski accident that left me paralyzed, I’ve often heard “I’m so sorry,” as if it was them who did it and as if I’m not the happiest person after it. I get that they’re being nice and probably don’t know what else to say, but an apology seems like an odd choice. Rather than an apology, may I suggest something like “what are you doing now?,” “I’m glad you’re thriving,” or even “I would love to read this story in your book, Greater Things.”

Just kidding about the last one, unless you really want to.

My sister a teacher, tells her students to use their apologies like they were gold coins. I think that’s the perfect way to summarize my message. For the few instances that you can’t put apologies to death, save your coins, honor your coins, and use your coins only when you need them. We’re all in this together – there’s no need to apologize.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of a book, Greater Things, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.