During middle school, I was a member of a theater group.
My classmates and I were inexperienced actors who regularly made mistakes. One of the girls in our group would apologize after every mistake. She developed a habit of saying “I’m sorry” even when she hadn’t messed up. She said it so often that the director finally told her, “No more apologizing! Stop saying you’re sorry!”
I can relate to my acting friend in many ways. When we are thrown into new experiences, the natural tendency is to apologize for our every misstep. I experience the temptation to apologize excessively every time I play pickleball.
I know what you are thinking, and no, pickleball does not involve pickles. Pickleball is similar to tennis, except the court is much smaller, you use a whiffle ball, and you are stuck with an oversized ping pong paddle for your weapon of choice.
Last year, I went to play pickleball with my uncle for the first time. For a full game, you need four people, so most of my partners were strangers.
Being completely clueless, I frequently messed up. The most difficult part of the game was serving the ball. In pickleball, you are required to serve the ball diagonally, which sounds easy until actually attempted. Without even thinking about it, I would apologize to my partner every time I missed the ball, hit it into the net, or missed the court when I tried to serve.
Finally, my one partner told me “Stop saying you’re sorry. Otherwise the game will completely consist of ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.’”
I kept apologizing because I felt like I was letting my team member down with my mistakes. But they messed up too. The fact that I have awful pickleball aim does not make me a morally bankrupt person who should grovel over my failures: it just makes me an awful pickleball player who desperately needs to improve.
So when are apologies appropriate?
When we mess up, hurt someone, or sin, we need to genuinely apologize and, most importantly, change our behavior. However, if we are trying our best, we do not need to apologize for our beginner’s mistakes because they are not moral failures.When we constantly apologize for our beginner’s mistakes, we dampen the true power of a genuine apology. Click To Tweet
Genuine remorse is defined by a change in our behavior. However, we cannot change our beginner’s mistakes because we have to walk through the learning process. Even if our beginner’s mistakes weaken our team, apologizing does not remedy the situation. We should do our best to serve our team, and that means working to improve our performance.
When we constantly apologize for our beginner’s mistakes, we dampen the true power of a genuine apology. “I’m sorry” turns into a flippant statement rather than a sign of genuine remorse.
Rather than apologizing for every beginner’s mistake, the best solution is to show our instructors, bosses, or teammates that we genuinely accept their feedback.
I love how Jason Gray responds to failure in his song, “Learning” when he declares, “If I fall, I win, every time I get up again. ‘Cause I can’t lose if I keep learning.”
Rather than seeing our beginner’s mistakes as actions we must apologize for, we must see them as opportunities to pick ourselves up and try again.We must see our beginner's mistakes as opportunities to pick ourselves up and try again. Click To Tweet
Mistakes are not moral failures that we should repent of— they are an integral part of the learning experience. Instead of apologizing, show your peers and instructors that you are eager to improve by humbly receiving feedback. Embrace your beginner’s mistakes because they are stepping stones to improvement and growth.