When Not to Apologize

Don’t apologize for apologizing—these are suggestions, not commandments:

Don’t apologize for being wobbly if you haven’t been on a bike in a long time.

Don’t apologize for not being practiced at a skill.

Don’t apologize for speaking up.

Don’t apologize for not knowing something.

Don’t apologize for knowing something. For God’s sake, don’t apologize for being smart.

As Julia Child said, don’t apologize for anything you cook.

Don’t apologize for being overdressed or underdressed.

Don’t apologize for liking things that other people consider uncultured, frivolous, elitist, or passé.

Don’t apologize for refusing to accept other people’s projected insecurities.

Apologize for doing harm. Apologize for being thoughtless or careless if it hurts someone or hurts the planet. In those cases, repent and sin no more.

But do not apologize for being human. God revels in watching you grow and learn, in taking tiny steps of courage. God delights in your gloriously, messily awesome self.

10 thoughts on “When Not to Apologize

  1. You need to find a nice photo. Great font and put this on a poster. I would hang it where I could see it every day.

  2. This is not meant to be rude at all, but is there any practical use for maxims like this? In the real world it’s easy to find situations where cultural standards say you ought to apologize in various situations.

    • In general, I don’t think maxims are meant to be especially practical. Like Proverbs, they are received wisdom, and “like a thornbush brandished by a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” Context determines the application. My objective with these is to provide courage and affirmation to people who have been taught inappropriate shame.

      • Perhaps — being “ashamed,” shame as an aversive emotion, might be useful if it lessens the probability of doing harm. But in my experience, shame usually attaches to things that have little ethical relevance: how we sing, our dancing ability, wearing the wrong clothes, being poor or female, or violating gender norms of masculinity or femininity. People are astonishingly shameless about being racist, sexist, or greedy. It seems the amount of shame you must feel is closely tied to the amount of social power you wield.

        What’s interesting about moral failure is that pretty much as soon as you admit it, you have no more shame. That’s one reason why conversion narratives and testimonies are so powerful.

    • I don’t understand your question.

      My article addresses the fact that people often apologize not for infractions or doing harm, but for asserting themselves, for learning, or for existing. This kind of pervasive shame does not draw people to Christ or improve relationships—it diminishes our humanity.

      Check out this poem:

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