Over-Apologizing of Victims
There was an interesting discussion behind the scenes here at ACFJ that stemmed from one of us over-apologizing (OK, it was me). Jeff Crippen pointed out that victims of abuse quite often apologize incessantly and for everything, even when we have really done nothing wrong. I have been one of those people. From there sparked a discussion as to why, in the world, we do this.
I think the habit of apologizing all the time comes from two things in my life: fear and esteem. Growing up, I was always “in trouble” with certain family members. It seemed I could offend just by being in the same room with them. Or breathing. They chastised me constantly for “hurting their feelings” by my “insensitivity”. Over time, I came to believe I was insensitive but just really didn’t know why. I guessed that I was more insensitive than others and just couldn’t see it. I no longer trusted any word that came out of my mouth. It has also made me somewhat mousy (which I hate). My voice is small and super soft now . .. and people regularly tell me to speak up, which intimidates me more. I am fearful that I will offend. It is a fearfulness that comes from mis-trusting myself. A friend of mine recently told me that she always said the wrong thing to her first husband (which I cannot imagine because she is so careful with her sweet words). After a while, she told her ex, “I’m so sick of apologizing for everything.” But, my friend had the esteem to know that she was apologizing for things she didn’t really do wrong. So, she simply stopped. It wasn’t this easy for me because of the esteem issues I had.
I really did not believe my opinion was worth anything. I have overcome this now. I’m not sure how — just little successes along the way leading up to bigger successes, encouragement from others, etc. I also have a healthy group of family and friends around me who are not at all offended by my words. I speak out of my heart — which is filled with the Spirit — and don’t obsess (as much) over my words. There is an ease and a naturalness about our communication.
When Paul speaks of “preferring others above ourselves” or “considering others as better” (Philippians 2:3), it does not mean that we aren’t to consider ourselves at all! Deferring to another person’s idea or need does not make my idea or need invalid. I think that is where we go wrong. We can consider another or prefer another without believing that our “right” or “idea” is trash. There is a difference between saying, “I prefer Applebee’s to Ruby Tuesdays” and saying, “Applebees is garbage and Ruby Tuesday’s is all that and a bucket of chicken.” Understanding this difference has helped me a great deal. I also try to self-talk . . .
Your opinion is valuable because you are created in Christ’s image.
He shut you down, they shut you down but God was not pleased with this.
God has given you a sound mind.
Do not apologize, Meg. You have done nothing wrong.
A lot of the problem is habitual but there is definitely a part of me that was very wounded from the abuse. A great part of my esteem.
Thankfully, God is in the business of restoring that wounded part in me and in you. Our opinions matter, friends. Our thoughts are important. Why? Because we are His people.