I apologise a lot.
It’s not just that I say “sorry” when I think I’ve hurt someone, I sometimes say “sorry” when I have a different opinion from someone else, or when I invite my friends over for a meal and I think my house is slightly messy, or even when someone interrupts me when I’m trying to talk. Apparently this is something that many women do. In fact, this is such a common phenomenon, Pantene has used it in one of their advertisement campaigns, called "Not Sorry".
There has been much research done to find out why women are so apologetic. The Journal of Psychological Science published two studies in 2010 where they found that men were just as willing to apologise for things they felt they had done wrong but their threshold for what they felt sorry for, was higher.
A psychologist, who was taking a workshop with us the other day said that women are more likely to begin their sentences with words like - “In my opinion” or “I think” or “I’m sorry, but”. Men on the other hand usually put their opinions out there with no apology. This doesn’t mean women don’t speak up. They do, but they seem to feel quite unconfident about it.
To add to this, women can also be apologetic about their success. Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In”, talks about how men usually attribute their success to their own skills, whereas women usually attribute their success to others or circumstances outside themselves. This attitude of not believing in the self, Sandberg says, makes a woman less likely to take risks, ask for a promotion or aim to excel in her workplace.
There seems to be an attitude we, as women, can have that inhibits us. It can squash our dreams, push us to the back of the room “out of people’s way” and generally cause us to tip toe around for fear of offending someone by our presence.
I know I struggle with this attitude. And it doesn’t help that I’m an Indian who has to also fight the underlying mindset that men are better than women.
I’ve found myself fumbling for words and feeling extremely uncomfortable when I have to tell people I’m leading an organisation. It’s even worse when they ask who started it and I have to break it to them that I did, with a friend, who is also a woman.
I politely direct people to my husband when they ask me what kind of church we are wanting to plant in the city. And in crowded places, where there is lots of talking, I look for ways to take people’s attention off myself.
At the same time there is a longing within me to be all that I know I’ve been created to be. To let the “wild,” strong woman within break free from this weird, apologetic outer shell. It can get quite frustrating. The good news is that God seems to long for this too.
God, who is above our broken world, intervenes and treats us with respect and kindness. He listens to us, believes in us and delights in us. It is because of His value for us, that we can have good reason to value ourselves.
What I’ve begun to realise for myself is there is a journey that needs to take place in me - from fearing people and what they think, to fearing God and what He thinks. The fear of man causes us to be timid, insecure and apologetic. When I look at the heroes of the Bible I see what the “fear of the Lord” does.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego calmly informed an outraged, mad tyrant who was going to kill them that they did not need to defend themselves to him. They had Someone, who was more powerful and mighty whom they served.
Mary decided that being chosen by God was far more important than how she was going to explain to her fiancé the baby in her womb. It didn’t matter to her what people would think or say or do, because she was courageous enough to put the fear of God before the fear of people.
The fear of the Lord seems to be a source of true boldness and true courage. It not only makes you unapologetic, it causes you to rise above your small life and join what God is doing in our world.
So how do we begin to fear God? Here are two thoughts I’ve been meditating on:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
I think one way to fear Him is when I seek his wisdom and instruction. While this comes from my times with Him it also comes from seeking the counsel of wise people He has placed in my life. Only when I learn to listen to wisdom and instruction around me will I be able to say that I listen to God.
"The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Job 28:28
I begin to fear God when I recognise what is displeasing to Him and destructive for our relationship. When I make God my center, God’s desires become my desires and His passion for people, justice and human flourishing becomes my passion.
God believes in us, He loves us, He accepts us, He died for us and now He calls us to join Him in His work of reconciling all things to Himself.
I fear Him because He has enough power to end our lives in an instant, but He uses that power to rescue us from powerlessness so we can have a life we never imagined for ourselves.
Photo Credit: Kelsi Barr via Flickr cc
Beautifully written Shruti. Thank you for sharing. Especially loved the last paragraph. So true!
This is so beautifully written and the fact that I can relate to this makes me happy that I'm not alone and I can work on it with the Lord's wisdom and guidance.
Such an encouraging post, Shruti and as I read it I could hear your calm and confident voice behind the words!
Now one of my favorite posts of yours! I'm a fellow apologizer, so I completely understand where you're coming from.
Great article and quite a strong point that you are making.
Love this! Fear of man is the most common thing that holds us back and God abhors it because He alone is to be feared. I need this reminder every day.