I don’t think I give these few little words their due. If we’ve lived longer than 6 months we’ve had enough encounters with our fellow humans to appreciate the words, ‘I’m sorry.”

Why are the words “I’m Sorry” so powerful?

  • I’m sorry tells me you get it. You realize you’ve done something that has caused me harm, whether big or little.
  • I’m sorry tells me that you don’t like that you did it, and you want to make it better.
  • I’m sorry erases the emotional charge and allows me to trust you again. If I don’t know that you get it, how can I know you won’t hurt me again in the same way?

That’s a big agenda for three little words. And isn’t it interesting that it’s harder to say, “I am sorry” than it is to say, “I’m sorry,” as if the shorter softens the delivery. So there’s some shame involved. But you know what? We all screw up and hurt each other. Try as we might we just can’t avoid it. But if we account for it, it helps us do it less.

Apologizing, what’s in it for me?

When I say I’m sorry to you, that does something for me, also. It helps me hold myself accountable for my actions. I don’t want to have to look you in the eyes when I hurt you. Even when it won’t necessarily mend anything, accounting for my hurtful actions helps me grow to be a better person. I become more aware. Awareness is always a good thing.

I once heard a psychologist speak about how a woman can damage a man’s soul by being critical. I felt immediately convicted. I’d been critical of my former spouse for many years without even realizing it. Even though we lived separately at the time I heard this, and were on our way to divorce, I went to him and apologized. I had no agenda other than to own my stuff and hopefully offer him some peace that I finally got it. He cried. It didn’t change our trajectory toward divorce. I didn’t think it would. But I felt more honorable, and more at peace, and certainly humbled. And I think it provided a little healing to the father of my children, and grandfather of my grandchildren.

Those few words, “I’m sorry” had done as much as they could do. They really do deserve more credit than I give them. I plan to use them more.