Years ago, too many years that I don’t want to count or admit, one of my best friends in college yelled at me. Or at least it felt like yelling at the time.

“Lisa,” Dave said as we sat at a long table in the dining hall, wasting as many hours as we could at dinner, “You say ‘I’m sorry’ too much.”

My reply? “I’m sorry.”

I thought of this the other day because my older child apologized for something, again, that was totally not their fault or theirs to apologize about. I stopped them and corrected them, pointing out that they had nothing to be sorry about. “You know I say ‘I’m sorry’ too much,” they answered. I thought of Dave.

I didn’t even realize I apologized endlessly when Dave first challenged me. I do know that I felt attacked (I now know he was not attacking me) and judged and wrong at the time – hence my apology for apologizing.

Was this my overdeveloped sense of responsibility and guilt? From growing up in the Church? From leaving the Church? From being told I had “original sin” and was tainted and shameful? Was I actually told these things, or did I hear them anyway? Did I translate doctrine to highlight my errors, or was I taught the painful messages I learned?

I guess it doesn’t matter. I don’t remember how Dave responded. (It was over thirty years ago – there I admitted it!) I’m guessing he rolled his eyes in exasperation. I know that I was driven to be as good and perfect as I could be through all my childhood, during college, and through most of my adulthood. I think, as I step away from my perfection, I sometimes try to step away perfectly as well. It’s a mantle I have draped around myself – as protection? as repentance? – for a long, long time. And it’s a tough mantle to put down. But I’m trying to do that, probably trying to do it perfectly at times. Ah well.

And if I don’t pull it off – if I don’t stop feeling guilty when I’m not perfect, whatever that means, or feeling over-responsible for things that are out of my control – well then you certainly know what I’ll say.

“I’m sorry.”

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