“Oops! I did it again!!”
Does this famous song ever sound like a theme song for your life? I could seriously consider it for my own.
I can not tell you how many times I have apologized to my children for messing up, again! Especially at this point in their life (they are 19 and 22). Just as they are supposed to be spreading their wings, I chime in with another suggestion, offer of advice, or some kind of supposed seasoned piece of wisdom.
Of course, I have the best intentions. I think that my words will somehow help their life to be better, less agonizing, and definitely more enriched!
Unfortunately , my comments set them up for the complete opposite.
My children are at an age where they need to pave their own path and make their own mistakes. My input is a message that I don’t trust that they can do the job well enough, without my wisdom. I am essentially undermining their chances of sound independence.
(No doubt part of this is to ensure that I will not be accountable for what they become, unless, of course, they are super successful in all aspects of their lives). 😉
But is that really what’s going on?
Why can’t I just keep my mouth shut.
Well, I found that my mouth has the hardest time keeping shut when I am the most unsettled about my own life. My comments to my children are in direct relation to the greatest fears/insecurities/weaknesses that are in side of me.
That is why saying sorry doesn’t work. Saying sorry just won’t cut it here.
The Art of Messing Up
Are you aware of the difference between saying sorry, and a True Apology?
In case you don’t, simply saying your sorry is often an attempt to move past a situation without paying any attention to your actions or the changes you should make to prevent the behaviour in the future.
In contrast, a true apology is when you are active in identifying what caused your actions and then making the necessary changes to prevent future occurrences.
I am very aware of what a true apology is. I have used this countless of times. Why? Because I am good,… no,… I am really good at making mistakes.
When my daughter was 16, she said, “Mom, you know what makes you a good parent? It’s because you can acknowledge when you have messed up, figure out what went wrong, and fix things”.
**Please note, I had to ‘mess-up’ a lot to get the badge of ‘good parent’.**
Yay for me! I was excelling at the art of messing up. I learned about a true apology and then put the system to work to grow a strong connection with my kids.
Except, for the times when I kept messing up over, and over, and over, and over again….with no change at all.
I still had/have lots of work to do.
When a True Apology Falls Short
Here is where the trouble lies. I know that sorry is not enough. I am trying to change by being conscientious of my behaviours. I am focusing on how I need to change and to not try to change others around me…trying!. (Points taken from Rule #’s 2, 5, 9 of The 9 Rules for True Apologies: First of all, the word “but” is never part of one, by Harriet Lerner.)
But I keep doing the same thing over and over and over again. In this situation in particular, it is all about why I can’t just let my kids make their own choices.
So, I took some time to ponder deeply (meditate) on my actions.
And then it all made sense. I can’t even ‘truly apologize’ for my actions because my own deep rooted insecurities are getting in the way.
I was reminded that our internal system is all about preservation of the species. Situations that trigger insecurities or past discomforts sound an alarm to protect you.
Having my children make a choice (even a harmful little one like the way they keep their bedroom) is related to negative messages I hold from my past. So it is going to sound an alarm for me which is like a turbo booster for my mouth.
And that is when the unintended hurt happens. When my words, behaviours, or actions service to quell my own discomfort rather than respect my children’s own journey.
Now, this can be applied to anytime and with anyone from whom you have sought recompense. When you keep hurting another over and over because of your behaviour, even when you are well intended, you are servicing you and not them. Especially when you mean well because your mind is convincing you that it is OK to do or say that which is unwelcome for your benefit alone.
The Art of Screwing Up: Just One Step Further From Messing Up
The art of screwing up, is knowing how to work with you and the canvas of your life. When you keep making the same mistakes, look within. There may be something driving you that needs your attention. It needs you to turn into you. To take care of you over respecting another person’s space.
Instead of trying to manage others, you need to manage your own discomforts. It may be time to weed some of those out of your system.
Go deal with your discomfort. This is where growth happens. You actually end up feeling better about yourself because you work on you, instead of thinking others need to change. This is one of the great gifts of any kind of relationship. The opportunity to see yourself in a mirror, in the way you react and interact with others.
Grow you instead. That is where the reward lies, when you are connected to you and can feel the strength and confidence that comes from deep within.
Harriet Lener. (September 14, 2014). “The 9 Rules for True Apologies:First of all, the word “but” is never part of one.”