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What does "sorry" actually mean?

I've been chatting with all different demographics of people lately to determine what they interpret the meaning of the word 'sorry'. I've been curious because I hear people say it all the time when it doesn't fit a situation that I would say sorry to, so it made me wonder why they would say it.

Here's what I learned.

Saying sorry is an act of submissiveness, a type of humility that shows your desire to fix what you perceived is wrong in a given situation. Whether it's warranted or not, saying sorry almost immediately begs the offended to forgive your actions silently or audibly in a way that helps you feel like it was accepted. For example, 'oh you're fine', 'don't worry about it', 'it's no big deal'.

Saying sorry comes naturally for some but not all. Saying sorry is almost an instinct that comes out of their mouth, typically out of insecurity or misperceived inconvenience or irritation on the part of another. For example, 'I'm sorry I can't make it tonight...."

Saying sorry doesn't come naturally for some people. It's like pulling teeth for some to recognize their need to apologize. Even after explaining the reasoning behind the requested apology, resistance is still felt. For these people, they either feel like it would be a hit to their pride to admit that they were wrong enough to apologize or they weren't taught to reconcile their wrongs. Saying sorry could be a form of weakness for some people.

Saying sorry doesn't always fit the crime. For example, are we in control of what bugs, irritates or inconveniences another? Or are they in charge of themselves? The best example I can think of that I've been trying super hard to eliminate is saying sorry for my children's behavior. Naturally you should feel some responsibility for your children's actions, especially if you feel like you keep trying and trying to teach them and it's not working. But what I mean is apologizing for the 'kid' in them. Maybe when they say what's on their mind, display resistance, throw a temper tantrum, etc. These are kid actions that YOU shouldn't be sorry for because you're nervous that others might see. You're simply saying sorry in these situations to look for validation and approval.

Saying sorry isn't necessary all the time. You shouldn't apologize for asking for help. You shouldn't apologize when someone seeks spending time with you are you're late, not your best, etc, They know you and they love you for it, STOP APOLOGIZING FOR NOTHING! You shouldn't apologize unless you actually mean it. This one is hard for me to instill in my children because I MAKE them apologize to their siblings when they've wronged them, knowing full well that they'll probably make the same mistake again. (It's all about teaching them, right?!) You shouldn't say sorry with a statement afterwards. For example, "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings but..... Any phrase where a positive is separated by a 'but' will generally conclude with negative. Just don't do it.

Saying sorry is necessary when you have the desire to change. All of us make mistakes, EVERY SINGLE DAY! We have something to be sorry about EVERY SINGLE DAY! We would do well to look within ourselves and find opportunities to silently or audibly apologize for our misdeeds or thoughts. Doing so will allow us to change in a way that will strengthen us and help us to strengthen others. The humility required to genuinely apologize creates greater character and more positively impactful relationships.

Our goal in life should be to obtain, foster and nurture healthy relationships. We do so by appropriately saying sorry when necessary and not overly using 'sorry' as a way to cover our insecurities. These forms of apologies doesn't help you truly connect well with people. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE SORRY ABOUT EVERYTHING. While you might feel this way as a result of childhood examples and/or current situations, surround yourself with people who will call you out on the inappropriate usage of 'sorry'. Caring for others and being considerate of them doesn't mean you have to apologize all the time.


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