“I’m Sorry”: Have these 2 words lost their value?

These are two small words made up of 7 letters in total but the power of these words is amazing. I think I once heard somewhere (probably in a movie) that love means never having to say you’re sorry. This could be farther from the truth in my opinion and obviously a Hollywood misconception. Real love means saying you’re sorry when you screw up and knowing when to swallow your pride. This holds true for all types of relationships (romantic relationships, family relationships, friendships, etc.).

Some people have a difficult time recognizing when they’ve done something wrong and that failure can sometimes lead to the end of the relationship. The words “I’m Sorry” are powerful in that they acknowledge that a wrong doing has occurred, that the action has caused hurt, and that an active effort will be made to not make the same mistake again. They also represent the responsible party’s acceptance of that wrong-doing and there willingness to accept the blame. It takes a really mature person to recognize when they have done something wrong and are willing to humble themselves and say those two words.

Although these words are strong, it seems that in today’s world their power and meaning has lost some value. I say this because we tend to say “I’m sorry” almost as a reaction to any given situation where we may be wrong but really have put no thought into our wrong-doing or mistake and have no intenton of correcting our behavior. For example, we say sorry to our spouse when we arrive later than promised as a result of working late and promise not to let it happen again. This would be fine if we really meant it but then the next day we do the same thing. If we continue to partake in the same actions after we say sorry then the value and power of those words diminish. In this sitaution saying “I’m Sorry” isn’t meaningful instead it becomes something we say merely to pacify the one that we have hurt.  I came across the following while surfing the web and I thought it was a great description of what the essence of those two small words are trying to capture. Jim Valeri says that saying “I’m sorry” means that :

1. I realize that what I did was wrong

2. I realize that what I did hurt you deeply

3. I want to continue to have a positive relationship with you

4. Therefore, I am going to ask for your forgiveness

5. And in a good faith effort, endeavor to rebuild your trust by never doing what I did to hurt you again.

When we say that we’re sorry that is what we really are saying. It’s much easier to say the words “I’m sorry” than to say the 5 bullet points above and I think that’s why we use those words in vain. We fail to understand the real purpose of the “I’m sorry”. Therefore, the next time you think about saying those words think about the true meaning and power behind them.  Make your apology a sincere apology so that the power of those words don’t lose their value.

According to a research study done at Cornell University, when it comes to insincere and sincere apologies, “targets of such apologies are not likely to respond differently.” Since people don’t respond differently to apologies, whether we mean them or not, it would make sense as to why we continue to use insincere apologies. In fact, they assert that the reasoning behind using insincere apologies are to feel good about oneself and to be seen positively by others.

If that study holds any merit then sooner or later “I’m sorry” will have no vlaue and merely become a phrase one uses to make oneself feel better and allay one’s guilt. Let’s not let this happen. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t let your words lose their meaning.

What do you think? Are your apologies sincere or insincere? Are there times when you say “I’m sorry” but really aren’t?

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