Why it’s not optimally useful to say I was wrong or bad when apologizing

It can be tempting to say, “I was wrong”, when apologizing. We do this with the hopes of resolving the conflict between us and someone we love. We hope that it will help them see that we are truly sorry and want to ‘fix’ things. On the flip side, when someone does something that we feel really hurt us, we can want to judge them or their actions as bad or wrong. We often times also want them to admit it and say sorry.

While apologizing is a great thing, we suggest that it’s not optimally useful to say, “I was wrong”, when apologizing or to want your partner to say it.

Here’s why:

  1. Because nobody likes to be wrong or bad, associating ‘wrongness’ or ‘badness’ with apologizing creates resistance to apologizing in the relationship. This leads to people saying sorry less and less often.  That’s an issue because when apologizing happens less often, then issues build up in the relationship bucket leading to low tolerance for one another, impatience, snapping, passive aggressive behavior, and more frequent, intense, and complex conflict. In turn, this can lead to relationships breaking up that could otherwise have been quite positive if there had been more apology and reconciliation of conflict.
  2. Saying or believing that you or your partner were wrong is not actually a conscious, precise, useful, or even the most accurate perspective. People are not wrong or bad – we are all ultimately good, equal children of God and the Universe, we all have ultimately positive intentions, we all do our best with our quality and level of awareness, understanding, perspective, emotional pain, and past life experiences. Even when people do seemingly horrible things, they are just operating from ignorance, fear, and pain and deep down inside they do have positive intentions.  Their non-optimal decisions don’t make them wrong or bad – like us and everyone else, they are in their process of learning. Had they had enough information, awareness, emotional maturity, and perspective to make a more optimal choice, they would have! If we lead the way by understanding this and forgiving those that make non-optimal decisions, then we offer them a non-judgmental space to learn and we can experience less negative emotions, have more positive life experiences, and enjoy better relationships. If, instead, we judge and punish each other as wrong or bad, we are just keeping the negative cycle going while operating from inaccurate perspectives that cause us internal and external suffering.
  3. Using words like “wrong” and “bad” prevent us from attaining conscious, precise understandings of what happened, why it happened, and how it happened and therefore consciously evolving and transcending patterns of conflict.  Words like wrong and bad prevent us from this necessary precise understanding because they are dualistic in nature – meaning they are oversimplified buckets or categories of extremes which we try to cram people and situations into. We do this because it can feel safer, easier, simpler, and even necessary to look at situations, ourselves, and other people through a black and white lens. As a result, we label each other, our relationships, and things as right or wrong and good or bad. That said, in so doing, we misinterpret, exaggerate, project, judge, punish, emotionally overreact, and miss an opportunity to acquire a precise understanding of our situation that can actually lead to a conscious choice in the moment of conflict, as well as ultimately learning and transcending whatever pattern of conflict we’re caught up in via those precise understandings. Understanding each situation for its particular shade of gray leads to consciousness, awareness, mindfulness, and the clearing of negative thoughts, emotions, and conflict. It leads to a more positive, joyful, rewarding, fulfilling, conscious experience of life and relationships altogether.
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