Several weeks ago I heard on the radio that the average male says “I’m sorry” 1.9 million times during their lives. If you assume an average life expectancy of 75 years, that means that he’s apologizes approximately sixty-nine times a day! And considering that he probably didn’t speak for some portion of his early life, that figure is probably even higher. At the end of their lives, it would seem that most guys are accomplished apologizers.
Now some of my readers may be thinking that there are some guys in their lives who should be apologizing a little more. Others, may be thinking the reason for the excessive count is that there are guys with a lot to apologize for. And perhaps both of these factions are right. However, I can’t help but think that for some it is more than that. Perhaps the reason that they are apologizing so much is because they’re being told they should. Perhaps an “I’m sorry” is just the conditioned response to the criticism that they receive.
Here’s what I’ve mean. If you have ever watched the TV show “The King of Queens” you’ll hear the main character, Doug, apologizing a lot. It’s not unique to this show; quite a few television programs feature a man who is constantly being corrected and reprimanded (usually by their wife, but not always.) In “The King of Queens” you quickly get the impression that the apology isn’t a sincere acknowledgment of something that is done wrong, but is instead a strategic way to cut off a potential argument. Doug’s wife, Carrie, is constantly telling Doug all that he is doing wrong. “I’m sorry” is the quickest way to move the discussion on to something else.
But here’s the thing, if you watch the show for any length of time you realize that while Doug is lovable, funny and a bit of a clown, you don’t really see him as a strong character. We might want our men to, as one writer recently put it, “Step it up and be men”, to “Fight. Do the hard work” but if it’s hard to stand tall if you’re constantly being cut down.
This isn’t to say a person shouldn’t apologize. When they’ve done something wrong – they certainly should. But doing some “wrong” and doing something different than the way that I would do it are two entirely different things. And unfortunately many of us often confuse the two.
Scripture has something to say about this. Proverbs 12:16 tells us that “the vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.” Yet it is easy to treat this verse as if it says the opposite – that a fool ignores an insult, and the prudent let their vexation be known at once. We’re concerned with getting what is rightfully “ours” – whether it’s an apology or things being done our way – and we neglect to realize the impact of our constant complaints. We neglect to realize that if we’re always offended, we’re likely rarely encouraging.
Instead, perhaps if we were a little more prudent, if we were willing to overlook the minor grievances and inconveniences, there would be the need for a few less apologies. But the few that there are, would be a lot more meaningful.