Have you seen the “Sorry, Not Sorry” hashtag? You know, #sorrynotsorry.
You’ve probably seen it, and maybe you’ve even used it once or twice. In its more benign and humorous form, it’s used to indicate an indulgence in a guilty pleasure when one actually doesn’t feel all that guilty. Like, “I ate an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and it was really good. #sorrynotsorry” Or, “I called in sick to work and binge-watched Netflix all day. #sorrynotsorry” You get the idea.
And, in this context, I find it kind of cute. It’s a reminder that maybe we shouldn’t have to play by the rules all the time, and the occasional splurge, mild rebellion, or bout of procrastination isn’t the end of the world.
However, there’s another way I’ve seen this hashtag used, and that’s in the context of where someone has done something or said something honest–maybe painfully so, or difficult; something that’s ruffled feathers, or that isn’t viewed well by everyone. And in that case, the hashtag is used as a way to acknowledge that perhaps you think I should be sorry about saying this, or doing this, but I’m really not. It was the right thing to do. It needed to be said.
This week, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, particularly as a woman, and particularly in anticipation of Ash Wednesday next week, and Lent.
There are lots and lots of really wonderful things about being a woman, but one of the things that’s not so great is that, in our society, there continues to be an additional burden placed on women, which typically is not placed on men, to be nice. (What an oppressive word!) You know, to keep the peace, to not rock the boat, to maintain good relationships with everyone, and to soothe hurt feelings. And yes, to say I’m sorry.
Now, to be clear, I am a big believer in apologizing. It is an absolutely indispensable component to well-functioning human relationships in almost any environment–personal or professional. We all have to be able to own up to our mistakes, and have both the courage and the humility to admit when we are wrong, and ask for another’s forgiveness. This is simply part of the joy and the messiness of being human.
However, the reality is that women often are required to accept too much of the responsibility, too much of blame in relationships–again, both personal and professional; and too often are simply expected to be the ones who say, “I’m sorry.” Women are viewed more critically when we challenge, when we protest, when we criticize, and it is almost demanded of us to carry the lion’s share of the burden of keeping everyone happy, even at the cost of our own integrity, our own convictions–even just a good night’s sleep.
All of this is been in the back of my mind as I have been preparing for Lent, the great liturgical season of repentance that is almost upon us. Don’t get me wrong–I love this time in the church year, I really do, but this year in particular I’m especially concerned to differentiate well the things for which repentance is needed from the things for which no repentance is needed at all.
Here are some examples of the latter: speaking out prophetically and criticizing injustice where we see it; standing up for our neighbor when our neighbor is maligned and mistreated; calling out bullying behavior; challenging racist and sexist comments; not sitting down, not shutting up, and not just accepting things the way they are. For these very Christian acts of love and resistance, no repentance, no apologies are needed.
So, this season, as I do every year, I will again turn to God and ask forgiveness. I will wear ashes on my forehead as a reminder of my own mortality and impermanence, and my own humility before the great vastness of the universe. I will practice spiritual disciplines and seek to open my heart to the work of the Holy Spirit and to greater love of my neighbor. I will walk with Christ toward the cross. And, I certainly will say I’m sorry for all the things known and unknown, things done and left undone. I will ask for mercy.
But for making some people angry? For not rolling over? For not always acquiescing? Nope. I’m not repenting for any of that. This hashtag is simpler and cleaner: #NotSorry Not one bit.