can’t apologize

November 19th, 2012

Yesterday I made an error in speech, which was actually an error in typing. Sending an email, I intended to write what I always advise on the subject of conflict resolution: “Say you’re sorry. Apologize not because you are wrong but because you can.”

After I sent the email I re-read it. What I had written was “Apologize not because you are wrong but because you can’t.” I wavered: should I send a correction? A quick clarification? Make sure that the recipient understood that I was in my right mind?

When I looked at it again I decided that the mistake expressed an even deeper level of practice. Apologize because you can’t. Send the apology you never thought you would. Do it because it doesn’t make sense.

This is the way we resolve everything: by realizing that the only thing standing between can and can’t, love and hate, war and peace, us and them, is a hasty, reckless and erroneous contraction. So get over it.

Subscribe to my newsletter • Come to a retreat • Facebook me • Follow me.


  1. Perhaps your unconscious was at work here 😉 Love this, thanks Karen.

    Comment by Bobbi — November 19, 2012 @ 7:18 am

  2. Thanking my lucky stars my unconscious is always at work here. I can take the day off!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — November 19, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  3. YES! “get over it” is easier than I think

    Comment by Colleen — November 19, 2012 @ 11:31 am

  4. I came from a long line of women whose pride would not allow them to apologize – ever! On behalf of them, I now want to say,”I am sorry for the hurt and pain their words may have caused. Most of all, I am sorry that pride got in the way of their opportunities to act with grace and humbleness.” An apology is not an admission of personal failure; it is an admission of human-ness, awareness, and compassion. Namaste, Karen . . .

    Comment by Sharle Kinnear — November 20, 2012 @ 8:10 am

  5. Brilliant, as always……………

    Comment by Eva — November 20, 2012 @ 8:30 am

  6. Thank you, Karen, for your honesty and insight. Your posts travel straight to my heart & soul. Your clarity is remarkable. This particular post resonates after spending Thanksgiving with family–a family I love but for which communication is sometimes complicated.

    I was also struck by your previous post, “Unsaid.” My whole being responded YES! Thank you deeply.

    Comment by Joy — November 27, 2012 @ 6:11 am

  7. The paradoxical version (the one you unconsciously typed) is so much more striking to me. Both are true, but that one in particular calls to me.

    Comment by Kylie — November 30, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month