Words aren’t enough.

In recent years, I realized that the words I absolutely cannot stand hearing are “I’m sorry”.

It’s not that I don’t believe the person is genuinely sorry for their actions or misdeeds when they say that. In the many apologies I’ve received, there have been more than a few genuine ones. But I absolutely hate hearing those words because it’s such a token apology, and if it’s not backed by according action, there’s no credibility there to speak of.

Most of the time, whenever I hear “I’m sorry” I always watch to see if it’s followed by actions that support it. And what has driven me to the heights of aggravation is that, more and more frequently, an apology is not. backed. by actions.

I’ve always been fond of the Einstein quote that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting a different result. It’s more true a statement than you can imagine, with one major exception: when it comes to people, repeating the same action, especially when it pisses people off, is going to result in you being called out on your actions and, if the best you can do is say “I’m sorry” and do nothing to change it, being jettisoned for repeating the same thing over and over.

People have limits in regards to how much of the same thing they can take, either in terms of something done to them, or bearing witness to the same actions that yield the same results time and again.

Lately, I’ve started drawing clear lines in terms of what behavior I tolerate from people, and I find that it’s been a long overdue thing to do. Here’s the thing: I’m one of the nicest people out there. However, here’s the deal: in part because I’m young and in part because I’m female – like it as not, there is a very clear gender bias – people expect me to let them slide. And I will confess that, in a huge part because I genuinely give care about the people in my life, I’ve let them slide more than I should’ve. But now, when I take stock of where I am in my life, I’m finding that entirely too people have been taking some serious advantage of the caring aspect of my nature, and as a result, I have allowed them to get away with entirely too much.

And inevitably, when I take steps to correct that, I’m the bad guy.

I’m sure you, dear readers, can relate. When you allow someone to take advantage of you for a long enough time, correcting that behavior, especially after it’s been going on a while, is never going to be without the other person suddenly turning it around and asking you why you’re being difficult, why you’re being this way, why is it a problem now… etc. Well, guess what: you’re not being difficult. It’s always been a problem, and you not speaking out about it previously doesn’t mean that it was less of a problem.

If I hadn’t done so, let me make it clear: no one has to tolerate a damn thing from other people’s behavior that they don’t want to. There is no obligation to accept and tolerate everything just because ‘that person has this view and we have to respect it’. Absolutely fucking not. No one is entitled to respect of their views or their behaviors just because they’re there and just because these views exist in the brains of the people in your life. No, no, no, and no. It doesn’t matter who the person is: if you want respect? Earn it. And if you don’t want to be subject to someone’s behavior? Then draw a line and say that this is not acceptable and you will not permit it.

Remember: people will go only as far as you allow them to go.

I’ve had to do that recently with a few folks, and it’s not the first time I’ve done it. Once every few years, I take stock of what’s around me and take action based on what I see and experience. And without fail, without fail, they all break into a chorus of “I’m sorry” and claim they’d never do it again.

Please, I’m an author. Between my five books and one screenplay-book (on Amazon, published), I’ve poured out over a million words onto paper, and could do the same thing for the next five publications. Words are, in essence, incredibly cheap, and sorry doesn’t cut it for me – not anymore. If you really want to apologize to me, what you should be saying is, “It’s my fault. What can I do to fix it?” And don’t just talk about it, actually fix it.

Lapsing back into the same behavior, no matter how long it takes to lapse, only torpedoes credibility. I tend to watch people’s behavior to see just how well their actions back up their words, and it disappoints me greatly to see people I care about, even love, continuously lapse back into the same behavior that got them called out in the first place.

And yes, before anyone asks, I’ve been guilty of the same thing. And that’s how I learned: because the people I’ve done it to have pushed back and told me: not cool. I came dangerously close to losing one of my best friends because I acted like an idiot, and you best believe that she let me have it chapter and verse. And yeah, I’ve had a couple of people not forgive me either – which, at the time, I wholly deserved. And you know what else? The times I was forgiven, I had to earn it.

Remember, people: if someone is calling you out on your behavior, words, beliefs, etc. you may actually want to listen to it. Just because no one said it was a problem before doesn’t mean there was never a problem. It just means that one if the people around you has finally had it up to here with tolerating it and has no intention of taking it for another minute. Silence is as good as acceptance, and can be misinterpreted to mean surrender. So when someone is refusing to be silent? You may actually want to listen to what they say.

And, as I learned the hard way, sometimes you do have to eat a piece or two of humble pie. There’s no shame in that.

K.G.

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