Don’t say it if you won’t be it…

February 8, 2016

“Saying sorry and being sorry are not the same sorry.”  (Unknown) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

sorry1In some marriages the phrase “I’m sorry” is used more often than the phrase “I love you.” Those marriages don’t usually last long. Saying “I’m sorry” is easy. In fact Brenda Lee had a hit song titled, “I’m sorry”. Saying “I’m sorry” over and over for the same actions may not be the description for insanity but perhaps for insensitivity or an indication that you are uncaring about the feelings of others. The hard part is being sorry; because that requires that you think about and accept responsibility for your actions or hurtful comments. It also means learning something from the mistake that you made and hopefully doing something to insure that it doesn’t happen again.

The phrase “I’m sorry” is used to cover such a wide spectrum of transgressions that it has become diluted and less meaningful than the situation may call for. Saying “Oops, I’m sorry” when you’ve just knocked over a glass of water or pop and doused a friend or date is not the same as the “I’m so sorry for your loss” to a grieving widow at a funeral or saying “I’m sorry” to your spouse when you have just been caught cheating on them. The sorry that you’ll need to be in all three cases is different, too; ranging from embarrassed to feeling empathy with the sense of loss to remorseful and regretful. “Sorry” has become sorry 2a throw-away that we toss in to situations without making the personal investment of actually being sorry.

Maybe if we said instead, “I’m an idiot” or “I’m an uncaring ass” or “I didn’t care about how you would feel” or maybe “I didn’t think before I said that” or any number of more descriptive phrases that might be appropriate to the occasion we would be more honest with the other person and with ourselves. I don’t think you’d do that more than few times before you changed the behavior that is causing you to have to say I’m sorry in the first place. The movie Love Story contained a scene with the famous line, “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Unfortunately that line has become perverted into a means of not really apologizing for the wrongs that too many married people have committed. I would submit that love is really being sorry, if you have to say it.

So the next time you catch yourself tossing the phrase “I’m sorry” off to someone; stop and ask yourself if you are really sorry and how you are going to act sorry about it. Are you going to do something for or with that person to make it right? Are you going to change how you act or what you say in the future? How are you going to be sorry?

sorry 3Maybe of you start of each day and pause to think about not doing things that you’ll have to say “I’m sorry” about you’ll have a better day and you’ll spend a whole lot less time saying and being sorry. But, then; maybe you don’t buy any of this and will just go on being the way you’ve always been – you’ll probably end up sorry about that.

Get out there this week and try harder to not do the things that you might have to say that you are sorry about; however, if you do have to say it, at least own it and mean it.


What to do if they won’t forgive you…

May 20, 2015

A follower of this blog wrote to me recently with this problem –

I read your words of wisdom faithfully. I have to ask how to handle issues when you’ve apologized and the people you apologize to don’t accept your apology. Does one keep trying or just give up? Family members choose to hold grudges, etc. Usually, the person apologizing doesn’t even know what they did wrong. Curious. Thanks much.

Well, I’m flattered that you consider my musings on various topics to be words of wisdom; however, I not a counselor; I’m just an observer of life who has experience with some things, who has opinions on some things and who just likes to write about lots of things.

angry coupleI have to start by saying that my life experiences lead me to disagree about your last full sentence. I suspect that the person apologizing knows exactly what it is that they did wrong or that caused the problem. Sometimes what they did to cause the consternation may be something that they don’t think of as being wrong; however it is perceived that way by others in the family. So go back and re-think what it was that caused the issue with others in the family. The issue of right and wrong is sometimes a matter of interpretation or perspective and quite often there is denial on the part of the party being accused of being wrong. Accept the fact that whatever was done was seen as “wrong” by others and then you can move towards an apology and forgiveness.

The other thing that experience tells me is that sometimes the people apologizing do so in such an off-hand or flip way that the apology itself is offensive, because it is not considered to be genuine. Saying something like “Oopsie, my bad” is not mentoringreally apologizing; it is trying to smooth over things with a flip statement. This may again grow out of the perception of the wrong-doer that what they did wasn’t really wrong. The young especially have a hard time with that, when the offense is the breaking of some parental rule that they think is arbitrary or unfair.  Remember that a wrong may be something that someone else perceives as wrong or an offense against them.

When dealing with something like this situation, you can actually use a variation of a technique that is taught in business schools for dealing with objections in a sales process. at least this might provide you with some structure for proceeding.

First, identify the issue. Don’t assume that you understand the issues involved, especially not from the perspective of the people who are offended or angry. So the first step is to clarify what it is that they are angry, hurt, disappointed or offended about. Have them tell you what they are angry about. Accept that, from their perspective, whatever you did was wrong.

The second step would be to re-phrase the issue back to the people who are angry and get their agreement that you do indeed understand their perspective on the issues.  Put into words what you think the offense was and see if those who are your accusers agree that you have identified the “wrong” that you have committed. While you’re at it, accept that it was wrong in their eyes. This may take a few iterations, because you may not understand their perspective at all in the beginning. This step also is worthless unless you finally admit that what you did was wrong at some level, especially to those who feel that they were wronged. You cannot move forward from the position of, “What I did wasn’t wrong.”

sad looking manThe third step would be to express a heartfelt apology for the actions of yours that caused their reaction. You might also want to express what you learned from the experience and indicate what you will do to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again. Perhaps you might even have to outline a plan of restitution, if your actions caused real damage or loss. This step is important for two reasons – it shows those who were upset that you are truly sorry and it provides you with the life-lesson knowledge about what was wrong and how not to repeat the mistake.

The final step is to test for acceptance of your apology and forgiveness of your offense. You may have to ask bluntly, “Can you forgive me?”  Some amount of time may have to pass before you actually get the acceptance and forgiveness that you are seeking; especially if what you did to cause this situation was really grievous. If you’ve done step three properly it will be hard to “hold a grudge”, but don’t expect everyone to just forget about it for quite some time.

One should never just give up on other people, especially family members. If the four steps above don’t work to bring
closure to your situation, perhaps you need to take the situation to a higher authority. Ask your family members to pray withpraying you about this and seek their forgiveness as you seek it from God. You know that at least one participant in that prayer is going to forgive you if you ask for it. If your family is not one that prays together, you can still seek forgiveness from God and ask also for His help with your family members. You need to get right with yourself and with God, before you can truly seek the peace with your family that you desire. Remember to start by admitting that you have done was wrong and ask for His forgiveness and help.

I hope this helps a bit with the situation that precipitated the question. Life is filled with missteps and wrongs that we do or that we perceive are done to us. Learning to deal with them in a way that brings closure and then moving on with life is an important step in the process of growing up. Knowing where to turn for the help that you need sometimes is important, too. Fortunately, that is an easier thing to figure out. He is always there when you need Him.