Probably the most common two-word (actually three words…I am sorry…😊) phrase used today is I’m sorry. It has become so often stated that it rolls right off the tongue, and out of many peoples’ mouths, without a second thought, or should I say without any thought. This watered-down phrase has become very much like “I Love You”… it’s common, it’s easy to say, it’s nice, and generally always a positive intent from those uttering these words.
But does this simple, often heard phrase really mean anything? I would have to say in most cases, NO!
A wise man once told me that I should never say I’m sorry for something that I myself, did not cause to happen or that I did not influence to happen. I admit, that it’s such an easy phrase to say, that I do honestly struggle to not offer it up, even when I had absolutely nothing to do with whatever occurred. Somehow I often, and just instinctively, want to tell someone how sorry I am for whatever occurred. But the fact is, that wise man was spot on in his advice. Because, for this simple phrase to have any true, honest, and heart felt meaning, it can’t roll off our tongues as often as we take a breath or as often as some negative things happen.
For example, young children are so innocent and loving, and will do virtually anything to be seen by, and appreciated by, their parents. They want to always please their parents and receive constant affirmation. So much so, that every little thing they do, if in any way is not received positively by mom and dad, their instant reaction is to say I’m sorry. I would venture to say, that I’m sorry gets uttered more by children than any other phrase…except maybe…are we there yet? 😊
I passed a father and daughter walking on a sidewalk one day, and the father very lovingly and caringly told his daughter to be careful getting too close to the edge of the sidewalk, as the ground was quite muddy. Instantly the young girl responded I’m sorry. Fact is there was nothing to be sorry for as nothing negative had occurred it was just loving advice. But isn’t this the common, and all too often, unnecessary response we hear from kids?
I used to truly ruffle my three kids feathers when I would challenge their common, I’m sorry responses. Most of the time, they uttered these words, very much like the young daughter I just mentioned. But occasionally it was actually because they had made some minor mistake. Sarah and I would constantly hear I’m sorry when these things happened. So, I took this as a teaching opportunity, in an effort to try bring value, and true meaning, to the use of the phrase. Every time they would say I’m sorry, I would tell them, that they were not truly sorry.
So now you’re thinking, what a cruel dad. Let me explain. The use of the phrase became so common, that it was truly meaningless. So, I would counter every use of it, when some mistake had happened with – No you’re not sorry. As they then looked to me, bewildered at my statement, I would then ask them; “What effort or action did you do to try to avoid whatever mistake that just happened? The message being; If you truly thought about what you were doing, and you truly tried so very hard not to make whatever mistake, and its sill went wrong, then OK – saying I’m sorry is warranted. Because now it has meaning, now it is genuine, and now I know it comes from the heart.
But, as they say on one of my favorite talk shows, there is always a “But.” But if you did not make a true effort, if you did not give whatever action any thought, and you still made whatever mistake, then saying I’m sorry is meaningless, because you didn’t really try to avoid the result. I was trying to teach them that to use the phrase, and for it to have true meaning, there has to be a genuine, thoughtful act, that did not turn out as you like, for I’m sorry to truly have the meaning it should, or the meaning it is intended to have. Thus, I think for this phrase to have true meaning, we need to start teaching our children at an early age.
Let’s transition to adults. While there are still all too many occasions where the phase is just randomly thrown about for virtually anything, I do think the intent does change as we grow more mature. There are other common uses of the phrase that I totally understand but I’m still not sure are truly appropriate, even though they have become quite common. A person has a car wreck – we say I’m sorry this happened to you. A person get’s an unwanted medical diagnosis – We say I’m so sorry for you. Someone loses a love one – we say I’m so very sorry for you. Yet more times than not, we had nothing to do with these things nor directly caused any of them to happen. But these are cases where the use of I’m sorry does seem appropriate, even if it’s not the literal definition of use.
Perhaps the car wreck should be – wow that’s so unfortunate, I hope everyone is all right! The diagnosis response should be – wow that’s a shame or that’s totally unexpected, what does this mean for you going forward? The loss of a loved one should be – wow, this is truly a shame, how are you doing – how can we help you? But again, these simple two/three words are simple, easy, and convenient, so our use, especially in these examples, is understandable even though not necessary, and certainly not a result of our actions.
To me, words have always been so very important and can express true meaning and heart, but only when they are genuine and truly come through thought, and actually from the heart. So, when you say I’m sorry, do it because you need to say it, because you actually did something that causes you too genuinely be sorry. Make sure it is genuine and has true meaning. I am truly trying to break myself of this habit as well, as I often catch myself starting to utter these words, when I’ve done nothing wrong. Usually I succeed, but sometimes I do not. But I still try my hardest to make my words be meaningful and thought inspired.
With all of this said, there is one obvious contradiction to everything I’ve just written…I know you’re all thinking it. The one, very very obvious occasion, or should I say, many many occasions, when the CRITICAL phrase I’m sorry is the absolutely perfect, meaningful, and is usually genuinely from the heart…is…for all us husbands. Because when we mess up, when we forget something important, when we didn’t listen…AND…especially when we don’t even know what we did…I’m sorry is the ONLY TRULY meaningful thing we can say to our beautiful wives. We may not always know why, but we know all too well, that we genuinely owe our better halves, a true and genuine – I’m sorry.
P.S…and throw in an “I Love You” too!
Make sure when we do say these repetitive I’m sorry’s, they are because of our true and genuine Love!!!