Ever feel compelled to repeatedly apologize? I recently started working with a meditation teacher after seven years meditating on my own. After we agreed to a lifelong student-teacher relationship thereby increasing the intensity of the commitment for me, we set up a Skype session to talk about the details. The day before the session, or so I thought, he called asking why I hadn’t called him. Somehow I put the meeting on the wrong day on my calendar. People consider me both responsible and punctual, as do I. So when he called I found myself apologizing more than once and still focusing on my error the next day. He kindly requested I only apologize once for a mistake explaining how continuing to apologize keeps the mistake alive. He clearly moved past it more quickly than I.
Apologizing once after first feeling sincere regret over a mistake releases the charge and intensity around both the mistake and what the other person thinks. Before my scheduling error, I didn’t comprehend my deep attachment to “responsible and punctual.” Through my apologies, I wanted to avoid my teacher’s judgment, to petition him not to abandon me as a student, and for him to see me as worthy despite my glaring error but even more so to push away my discomfort around making the uncharacteristic mistake. Now I understand how a high quality one-time apology works for you as well as the other person, inviting you to accept and expand into your humanness rather than restricting your way out of it. Trying harder does not work, relaxing does. You make mistakes and you make amends.
Too many apologies come across like too many excuses, broadcasting anxiety rather than sincere regret. Notice how it feels when someone profusely or repeatedly apologizes, if it gets pronounced enough you might even find yourself wanting to save them from their misery. Apologizing sincerely and succinctly while taking full responsibility for your mistake offers comfort to the receiver and to you, not further distress.
Do you confine yourself to one high quality, heartfelt apology for a given mistake? If someone accepts your apology, do you still dwell on what happened or can you liberate yourself from it?