Men, Mistakes, and Saying Sorry

men and apologizing

Why is it so dang hard for so many men to apologize?

One of the most predictable parts of being human is being immensely fallible. Ah yes, human fallibility – surely you’ve heard of it. But what is fallibility, exactly? In so many words, fallibility is our propensity to make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Some big, some small, some irreparable, and some rather insignificant. Because we, as human beings, fail to maintain personal perfection in all of our affairs, we all learn the art of apologizing very early on in life. And a major part of apologizing, of course (and perhaps the most important part), is learning from our mistakes.

After all – if we fail to remedy our behavior, our apologies will prove to be entirely futile. I can apologize to my boss for showing up to work 15 minutes late. But if I show up to work 15 minutes late the next day, and 15 minutes late the day after that… what’s the point? Taking responsibility for our actions is only the first half of the equation. Yet for some, even doing this is out of the question. Especially, it seems, when it comes to men.

Men and Apologizing

It seems as if men tend to find it especially difficult to apologize, even when they know that a heartfelt request for forgiveness is in their best interest. Why do men struggle with saying sorry? There are several differing reasons, most stemming from long-standing social constructs pertaining to masculinity. If a man admits that he is wrong, he is admitting that he made a mistake – in his eyes, this vulnerability might translate to weakness. Another reason that men may find it difficult to say sorry is differing emotional expectation. Women, generally speaking, seem to be instilled with a deep sense of empathy at birth. They are biologically wired to nurture and support. Men, on the other hand, may have a more difficult time relating to variations of the human emotional experience. They naturally expect the rest of the world to experience the life in the same way that they do.

“If it doesn’t bother me, why does it bother you?”

Men tend to be less focused on emotional gradation than their partners are, and this often allows them to adopt a ‘what’s the big deal’ mentality and successfully avoid expressing regret.

Of course, this is not always the case. Many men are completely attuned to the needs of their partners, and are very aware of their emotional autonomy. Many men own up to their mistakes and put forth a genuine effort to remedy their behaviors. And surely there are many women who struggle to say sorry, and who actively avoid owning up to their inevitable blunders. The fact is, however, that societal ideals pertaining to masculinity and expected emotional fortitude prevent many men from learning the crucial art of apologizing early on in life. And in turn, this will lead to interpersonal problems (especially in romantic partnerships) later down the line.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the realm of recovery, the inability to make amends can have even more serious consequences. In fact, it may prevent the recovery process from successfully unfolding altogether. A major piece of all 12-step programs (both those geared towards substance dependency and behavioral addictions) is the necessity of reviewing past harms, and making sincere and thorough amends to those we have hurt. In order to maintain long-term recovery, we must relieve ourselves of the emotional baggage that we have been lugging around for years. We must bring the truth to light, and allow ourselves to be truly vulnerable. We must acknowledge and accept our fallibility, and prove – through our actions – that we are dedicated to a life of ongoing self-betterment.

Learning to Communicate

So not only is apologizing an invaluable life skill, and the key to healthy and functional relationships – it happens to be absolutely imperative to the recovery process. When it comes down to it, saying sorry (and understanding why, and striving for positive change) is just another component of communication. And communication, for most, does not come naturally. We at Next Chapter have extensive experience teaching men the art of effective communication. We utilize numerous modalities (talk therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy) to help men learn to communicate in a healthier and more operative way. To learn more about our comprehensive program of recovery, please reach out today.