Sorry, Not Sorry

A puppy appearing apologetic.

I feel the urge to apologize, ALL THE TIME, and I suspect many of you do as well. At times, I even feel the need to apologize out of fear that I’m inconveniencing something – and I haven’t done anything wrong. However, there are times when most definitely DO NOT need to apologize.

I was reminded of this today while reading A Dog Named Slugger, a memoir by Leigh Brill, a lady with cerebral palsy. At one point, she tells the story about a an attempted sexual assault – TRIGGER WARNING. Her date is a man named Joe, who also has a disability.

“Come on, baby,” he murmured, “you’re smart enough to know none of the guys out there want you. Of course they don’t; you’re a cripple. Thing is, that’s no problem for me. I mean I have those.”

He jerked his left arm up and out, gesturing toward his crutches … Joe’s eyes locked on mine. His tongue flicked out … I didn’t look at him. I dropped my gaze and curled my sweaty fingers into a ball. Uneasiness tightened my throat; it lifted the delicate hairs on my nape …

Suddenly he threw himself on top of me. I was pinned against the mattress. “Don’t you get it?” he said again. “You and me, we’re a match. It’s a cripple thing.”

“Cripple thing, my ass!” I shoved against him with all my strength. He rolled off me awkwardly, grunted. I was suddenly full of adrenaline and rage. “Get out! Now!”

Joe retrieved his crutches and stood up slowly. Crimson faced, he said, “… you can’t blame a guy for trying.”

“Screw you!” I hissed …

The door slammed. I crumpled onto my bed then and held my breath, listening to the steady clicking of retreating crutches.

Leigh’s reaction was spot-on and needless of an apology; however, I guarantee you that some of us would feel the need to apologize, perhaps even feel compelled to explain to him why his behavior was so egregious.

Most situations aren’t so dramatic, but the frequent urge to apologize – for anything or nothing at all – can be exhausting and demoralizing to the best of us.

Becoming a New Person

Demosthenes orator Louvre
Sting [CC BY-SA 2.5 (]
Everyone has wanted to be a different kind of person at one time or another. Maybe we’ve wanted to be more athletic, outgoing, or successful. Whatever it is, we’ve all had moments when we wished to be something different, something more.

Take Demosthenes of Athens, for example. Here was a young man who was disadvantaged in so many ways that he could have given up at an early age and few would have blamed him. Consider his circumstances:

“He was born sickly and frail with a nearly debilitating speech impediment. At seven years old, he lost his father. And then things got worse.

The large inheritance left to him – intended to pay for tutors and the best schools – was stolen by the guardians entrusted to protect him … Still weak and sick, Demosthenes was also unable to distinguish himself in the other critical sphere of Greek life: the floor of the gymnasia.

Here was this fatherless, effeminate, awkward child who no one understood, who everyone laughed at. Not exactly the boy you’d expect would soon hold the power to mobilize a nation to war by his voice alone.

Disadvantaged by nature, abandoned by the people he depended on, nearly every wrong that can be inflicted on a child befell Demosthenes. None of it was fair, none of it was right. Most of us, were we in his position, would have given up right then and there. But Demosthenes did not.
— adapted from The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday

Despite these setbacks, he had a dream that one day he could be a great orator who commanded the attention and respect of all of Athens. And he did it!  

To conquer his speech impediment, he devised his own strange exercises. He would fill his mouth with pebbles and practice speaking. He rehearsed full speeches into the wind or while running up steep inclines … And soon, his quiet, weak voice erupted with booming, powerful clarity.

Demosthenes locked himself away underground – literally – in a dugout he’d had built in which to study and educate himself. To ensure he wouldn’t indulge in outside distractions, he shaved half his head so he’d be too embarrassed to go outside. And from that point forward, he dutifully descended each day into his study to work with his voice, his facial expressions, and his arguments.

When he did venture out, it was to learn even more. Every moment, every conversation, ever transaction, was an opportunity for him to improve his art.
— continued from The Obstacle Is The Way

If one person could reinvent himself so completely, despite such disadvantages, then couldn’t we, at the very least, re-invent ourselves in at least one or two ways. Perhaps, we might simply want to:

  • Become a fitness buff, or
  • Return to college, or
  • Gain the confidence to stand up for ourselves

And just think, if we can focus and dedicate ourselves to re-invention in one aspect of life for a year, or maybe just a few months, then maybe we can do it again and again.

By building upon one success after another, we might one day find ourselves much like Desmothenes: a new person with a new future to look embrace.

To get you started, check out this article about 15 steps to re-inventing yourself:

The Rising Strong Process by Brené Brown

Cover of "Rising Strong"Brené Brown has defined a process that “teaches us how to own our stories of falling down, getting up, and facing hurt so we can integrate those stories into our lives and write daring new endings.”


Recognize emotion, and get curious about our feelings and how they connect with the way we think and behave.


Get honest about the stories we’re making up about our struggle, then challenge these confabulations and assumptions to determine what’s truth, what’s self-protection, and what needs to change if we want to lead more wholehearted lives.


Write a new ending to our story based on key learnings from our rumble and use this new, braver story to change how we engage with the world and to ultimately transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.

To learn more check out her book “Rising Strong”