The Problem with Saying “I’m Sorry”…

Article updated 2018

The Problem with the Words “I’m Sorry” – Saying sorry

Many would tell you these are the two most important words in relationship, and that saying sorry is very important. Some will tell you that you should use these words more, rather than less.

My response is: “really?”

I disagree. The words “I’m sorry” are relatively unimportant for the long-term, in your relationships. Many women use these words too much. Women also have this tendency to feel guilty too often; thus the use of the phrase “I’m sorry” (though this is not true for all).

I don’t think there is such a thing as using the words “I’m sorry” too little – I think rather, that there is such a thing as caring too little to make a change or to treat your partner better. 

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Many women lash out and cut deep with their words, and then torture themselves with guilt. And then say sorry. And then lash out, and cup deep with their words, and then torture themselves with guilt. And then say sorry. And then lash out with their words, and then….

The pattern still exists. The same thing happens, continuously, over and over. You have to break the pattern, and develop alternative ways to deal with a problem, or even a new authentic temperament.

You’ll find a larger proportion of women than men in the feeling guilty clan. Men feel it too, yes. But they don’t generally live in this emotion as much as women.

Sorry as a cover up

The words I am sorry are often used as a cover-up. I’ve done it before, and I’ve seen others do it too – this is how I know. The words “I’m sorry” are often just that – just words. Words in themselves mean little without true resolve to change something, or to do better next time. (read my article about he misses you but…)

There was a time in my relationship where I had not treated my man fairly, and I was saying sorry – and in the middle of it, I had to stop myself. Later, I thought hard about it. I thought hard about the words and why I was really saying them.

I came to a conclusion that, throughout my life, in certain relationships, I had said I was sorry out of a need to re-gain the other person’s acceptance. And to desperately try and re-salvage lost connection. In other words, I was still coming from a wholly selfish place.

Do you know what I mean?

It’s like, I hurt the other person to start off with, and now I want to take even MORE from them by hoping that my apology will bring them closer to me?! This is fickle.

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Sorry as a way of serving guilt

So, after stopping myself midway through the apology, I started to ask myself what would be a better way of doing things. I realised that, often, the words “I’m sorry” were helpful (depending on who the person is, and what they value), but never made the REAL difference in repairing something I’d done that was hurtful.

The real difference goes something like this: we mess up somehow; and act in a way that is less than authentic and less than acceptable. (Click here to take the quiz on “How High Value High Status Am I on Facebook?”)

And rather than hating yourself for it; rather than grieving, rather than indulging in guilt, the better thing to do would be to even say nothing at all, but to truly listen to the other person’s pain, and their experience. And just be with them. Whether it’s your man, your mom, your sister, your best friend, or your colleague.

Once I’ve done that, from a place of honesty and sincerity, as a true woman, it is a must to proceed to grow and to love greater. This means that repairing lost trust is purely YOUR responsibility – Up until a point where it’s clear that the other person isn’t interested in trusting you at all anymore. IF that even happens. Which is rare. In most cases, a person who is hurt just wants you to care more, and love them more. Even if they seem to be pushing you away. (read my article about how to solve a relationship problem)

Just to clarify for the purposes of this post, caring and/or ‘loving’ someone ‘more’ doesn’t have to mean that you suffocate them, but that you come from a place of authenticity and you place yourself wholly in their shoes, and listen and care – without question. No strings attached!!

Putting “I’m sorry” in to context…

That being said, for a small few, I believe that there are a number of people who say sorry authentically. And of course, it’s possible to say sorry purely out of 100% consideration, compassion and love for the other person.

I think that the words “I’m sorry” said in this way takes a high level of selflessness.

Childhood conditioning…

The problem for many is that as children, we had mommy or daddy take us by the hand, lead us up to little Johnny or Sarah, and force us to say “I’m sorry” when we broke their toy or called them a meanie. Even when we didn’t want to say sorry. Even when we didn’t mean it. Even when it wasn’t coming from the right place in our hearts.

And this is ingrained in to us over and over and over and over throughout our childhood until it became a natural and subconscious reaction to something. Sometimes, as a matter of etiquette, saying “sorry!” is fine.

For example, if you step on someone’s unsuspecting toes on a crowded bus, it’s only good to say “oh sorry!!!” Because you don’t know that person as well; you’re less likely to be in a long-term relationship with them, and it’s good manners to do so. Just to indicate some consideration towards them.

The words I’m sorry are not as important as our intentions, our resolve, and what we have to give. Some people just say they are sorry because they feel they have to.

What is more important than sorry?

Honestly, there are a number of things that are more important, and will have a greater effect and influence upon your relationship and life than using the “I’m sorry” phrase. I’ll list a few below:

– Working on yourself. Constantly striving to strip away your fears and masks so that you can present yourself with authenticity and character. When you do this, you’ll often say the words from a place of total authenticity, and they will MEAN more to the other person.

– A humble intent.

– Your actions in the long-term, after the thing you did or said that may or may not have caused hurt to the other person.

– True compassion.

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So do you agree with my views?

Do you think saying sorry is important? What other words or actions could someone say to you or do that would have a greater and better impact? Has anyone ever apologized to you and it didn’t feel like it came from the right place? Perhaps you thought it didn’t help because they didn’t mean it?

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Nazareen Long
Nazareen Long

My husband often tells me that Im just not able to say Im sorry when Ive done wrong. Ive tried to explain it to him but im not sure he gets it yet. This explains it quite well…my reasoning is that first of all im embarrassed and secondly actions speak louder than words so i prefer to show that im working at fixing, instead of just saying Im sorry. I think when someone starts saying Im sorry too often, you will soon start to not really believe them anymore.

Nes
Nes

One of the best articles ever… Wait a minute (thinking): with a bunch of other 30 articles on this blog! ^_^
The “humble intent” part has just reminded of a Tracy Chapman song I used to love… Well it stills give me “goose bumps”. So I share. Night night everyone : http://youtu.be/kjRo_CHSdt0

Aaaaaand….
Thank you guys for putting so much love and hard work in what you’re doing. Can’t get enough of this!
Sheers 😉

Pedro
Pedro

Must say, been pretty interesting reading all of these posts as a guy, as seeing that it’s almost always right, if not always. But sincerely, I can’t imagine a woman saying “I’m sorry” too much, never seen that in my life, be it wife and dad, any girlfriend of mine or anything. Well, I guess there are actually women who say sorry when they are wrong or feel bad (it’s a joke you…girls?). Still, seriously though, if your definition of “saying sorry too much” is saying sorry half the times your guy does, think about it for a while, something’s… Read more »

Gracie Decker
Gracie Decker

Wow I finally had this resonate with me. I just had a situation with a guy I was seeing. He told me a couple days ago that he was going to be snowboarding the entire day Saturday but wanted to leave early so that we could go see a movie, so we made plans for this evening. Well he just told me that he decided to take a friend with him and was going to be there all day so he wanted to reschedule for next weekend. Of course my feelings were hurt. Why make the plans in the first… Read more »

stefanie
stefanie

I want to compliment Ms. Summer for her honesty! And Renee, too. I have done the same – I have behaved unacceptably, then cried and said I was sorry when people got upset. Then behaved unacceptably again. And to get back to the angelic traits post – it took some angelic people to see through my moods and realize that it was a passing thing, not my true personality. I’m very thankful for those that stood by me. I have come to the same conclusion a while back and I wish I’d had this article back then. It is one… Read more »

clarice
clarice

it`s so funny really. at times after we`ve messed up we still want the easy way out and yes…i`m sorry …is the way. im talking the way out of responsibity, accountability, childishness,selfishness, thoughtlessness, …you name it. its easy to just say i`m sorry and wish its forgotten and we are forgiven. well tomorrow we`ll do it again and again. . . till some day someone will notice…and its not forgotten nor us forgiven

Mary R.
Mary R.

So true! We think it is a cure-all, when really, our behavior needs to change or the apology is worthless. Great, great post!!! Keep up the good work!

Ms Summer
Ms Summer

This article is a bit too accurate for my comfort:)

Renee
Renee

@ Bridgette: Thanks for that suggestion for a new approach.

Thanks JP and Poppy War for your contributions!! 🙂

JP
JP

I agree, “Im sorry” without out some kind of correction of behavior is totally meaningless and just said to serve oneself… to clear your own conscience. Im a firm believer in actions speak louder than words…and its true with these words as much as any other.

Poppy War
Poppy War

I agree, the words “I’m sorry” loose their meaning if used too much.

Bridgette Marie Williams
Bridgette Marie Williams

I think this article highlights the two most common uses of “I’m sorry.” One as a simple matter of etiquette (i.e.: stepping on a strangers toes, as you mentioned, or bumping into someone) This meaning of the phrase is part of civilized behavior. The meaning meaning you discussed has to do with requesting forgiveness for an offense you committed against another being. It is in this second usage that we see the phrase misapplied. Indeed, we ought to have the respect not to use it promiscuously…if it stops meaning something, then it will destroy a relationship in my view. Rather… Read more »

Renee
Renee

@ Ann: Thank You for the birthday wishes!! 🙂 @ P: YES! That is so true! Thank You for adding this. The words “I’m sorry IF….” indicate that (perhaps) the person saying the words is not entirely clear/sure of what it is they’re apologizing about. Not only that, but perhaps it’s not entirely relevant to even say “I’m sorry if…”, according to my solutions above. Because what truly matters is one’s own resolve to change. @ Oli: You are extremely articulate! Do you want to write my blog for me? 🙂 In all seriousness, this statement you made: “The phrase… Read more »

oli
oli

I totally agree that the phrase ‘ I am sorry’ is one of the most abused and trivialized expressions of modern day language. I find (and I admit to have done it), saying I am sorry is often done, as you aptly mention it, regain acceptance. I wouldn’t think guilt is a bad thing, however in my opinion, true guilt should lead one to correct one’s attitude. If guilt doesnt lead you to rethink a previous act and ACT, thereafter in a positive manner, then guilt followed by ‘I am sorry’, simply turns into a powerful form of emotional manipulation… Read more »

P
P

Also the phrase ” i am sorry IF … “

ann
ann

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY!

My ex-husband must have invented the words, “Am Sorry”. This guy could say “Am Sorry” at the drop of a hat.

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