“I’m sorry.”

July 6, 2013

Two words, maybe three, and they hold the power of the world.

Im-SorryNo qualifications.

No “but.”

No equivocation.

Just I’m sorry.

One of the saddest things in the world is when someone knows they’ve wronged another but simply can not apologize. The words won’t form.  Because the person can not consciously own their action.

Last month I saw this exact scenario on the Showtime series, Nurse Jackie. Jackie, who’s an addict, just could not own her actions and went to great lengths to avoid saying she was sorry.  This is not uncommon with addicts, as I learned only too well some years ago. Sometimes they even insist they have apologized. And maybe, in their minds, they have.

“I know you say I never apologized but I think I have,” someone once said to me.  The comment was telling. It was not “I know you say I never apologized, so let me take this opportunity to tell you how sorry I am that I…..”  It was “I already did, so I don’t have to.”  Still, years later, the words failed to form.

Fortunately, enough time had elapsed that I could laugh to myself about it when I recognized it.

So, we unintentionally hurt people all the time. We’re not perfect. It happens.  I think we know when we do it, too, either because we realize it when the word or action happens, or we can tell by the other person’s response.  When that’s not followed up by an apology, well, it says everything about who that person is in terms of their personal development.

“I’m sorry.”  Very powerful words.

i_m-sorry2Oh, and while were at it, here are a couple more that I’ve found useful in my life.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

Note to self:  use them more often.



12 comments on ““I’m sorry.”
  1. Julie Phelps says:

    Suggestion: For some people, in some circumstances, it is possible to feel sorry for the hurt or distress the other person is feeling. You can then say “I’m sorry” with the intention of conveying empathy for their feelings rather than admission of any guilt on your part. If you care about the relationship or the person who is hurt, it is not necessary to qualify your reason for stating you are sorry. Just utter those two words. Saying ‘I’m sorry” will help the other person move forward and possibly mend whatever felt broken.

  2. admin says:

    Julie, I think that’s a good point. We can be sorry for a situation without taking “blame.” And there’s nothing more infuriating than when someone says “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Which always feels like a qualification. At the same time, I’m not big on the concept of “guilt” and “blame” but am more about taking responsibility and owning whatever part of it is ours. It was a long road there, though.

  3. Tamara T. says:

    I once had to explain to my MIL why it was important that she apologize to her son for her extremely poor parenting and abandonment. She just couldn’t face what she had done and how it had shaped his life. Finally one day she took that step and it changed things. “I’m sorry” can’t erase the past, but heals hurts and soften hearts. Definitely a lesson worth remembering.

  4. admin says:

    Kudos to you for having that conversation, Tamara. I had the same experience with my own mother. After that, I felt that our relationship was “complete.” As it turned out, she died a few years later and when she did, I had no feeling of unfinished business–we were “complete.”

    • Julie Phelps says:

      Y’all remind me of why – and how simple it would have been – I should’ve apologized to my own mother for whatever wrongs she perceived I had done to her. If presented with the same personality and situation now I certainly would have. But I was in my 20’s, focused more on my own hurts than on the obvious fact of her particular mental state and hurt. She therefore died with the anger or perceptions of my wrong doing in her heart. My mind carries it still. Logic does not make it go away.

      I’ve made some questionable choices in my life, as many have. I’ve learned my mistakes and clung to the positive aspects of my decisions and the paths that ensued. Due to all the wonderful happenings that resulted (my children in particular) I choose not to have regrets over the paths I took. There is one exception: I should have said to my mother “I am sorry”.

      In my heart I know that, and so that guilty sort of hurt remains after almost 40 years. I never felt I was “technically” in the wrong, but who cares? We in the family now recognize with clarity that my mother suffered from mental issues that sadly made her life a sad one. We did not know that then.

      If there is ONE thing I feel my own children must learn from me without having to learn it the hard way, it is to simply say “I am sorry”.

      • admin says:

        It’s really difficult, isn’t it, when lessons come later in life. how well I know about THAT! You are lucky to have kids to whom you can pass down that knowledge and spare them the same heartache.

        I don’t know what your spiritual beliefs are, but I had this experience with my father apologizing after he died.


        You may not believe this is possible, and for me, well, I had never considered it could be so. But, this is what happened & it gave me closure, for sure.

        • Julie Phelps says:

          Carol, thank you for sharing that story – I am happy to hear you obtained closure. To have finally experienced the father/daughter relationship you longed for must feel wondrous.
          The reference in your post to our spirits finally gaining an overview and understanding of how the actions of their lives impacted others is a view I hold close also. Long ago I decided my mother was finally doing just that – that she would behave differently if given the chance to do things over now. Hopefully she now has found peace.
          If the day comes when I can carve enough out of the budget to pay for a session with one of your suggested mediums I think I will give it a shot. I know my sister has had contact with our mom multiple times without having the assistance of a medium. She and mom were very close plus my sister has always had a ready connection with the spirit world.
          Thank you again for posting just the right words!

  5. Sheryl says:

    Doesn’t it seem so easy to say just two words – and isn’t it amazing the power they hold? Yet it’s too bad so many people are unable to do it.

  6. admin says:

    Sheryl, you’re right. It does seem like such an easy thing, and yet…I wonder why that is?

  7. Joyce says:

    I know a few people who I wish would have said those words. It’s one of my pet peeves when I don’t get an apology that I deserve.


  8. I’m sorry is one of those sayings that role easily off the tongues of some people. I taught my son, I’m sorry was easy to say…but your actions will always speak louder. Make sure “I’m sorry” wasn’t avoidable by doing the right thing in the first place.

  9. People may also be reluctant to say “I’m sorry” if they fear they won’t be forgiven. The true honor in saying “I’m sorry”, of course, is in not making it conditional like that, but that possible outcome is too difficult for some people.

    Of the things I felt 100% right about in raising our kids, it was in teaching them: you don’t give away power with “I’m sorry”. You gain respect.

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