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Sorry seems to be the hardest word: It may not mean what you thought it meant

The other day I had a surprising experience. I had left all of my yarn at my favorite yarn store, and was a bit panicked about it because I needed it for my project. When I called the store and explained the situation, the girl who had answered the phone said ‘I’m so sorry’. Whoa. She had no involvement with what happened, but she was still able to say I’m sorry. Somehow, it made me feel a bit better about my situation. It simply gave me the feeling that someone cared about my little yarn drama.

I realized that when I am upset about something, it feels really good to hear the words ‘I am sorry’ because to me it is simply a statement that the other person cares about me and that they care about my feelings. They are clearly saying that they have compassion for my upset. My wanting to hear the words ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t mean that I think that the event or what is going on with me is the other person’s fault, nor does it indicate that I think that I am the victim of the situation. It also doesn’t mean that I am blaming them, or that I am not taking responsibility for what I created.

To me, and I think that I speak for a percentage of other women, when someone says that they are sorry, it is not an admission of guilt on their part. It simply a statement that they care about my feeling of the moment and that ultimately, they care about me, my needs, and my well being.

My husband and I find ourselves fighting over this often. Because to him, (and to many other men I have talked to about this), saying ‘I am sorry’ means that he is accepting blame for the situation and that he is admitting guilt. To him, saying ‘I am sorry’ somehow means that it is his fault, and that if he admits fault, he has now let me off the hook of any responsibility in the situation. The result would then be that now he is the only one that has to change or make reparations of some sort. Which of course seems unfair and unreasonable to him.

At times, when he is still angry at me, but not wanting to continue the fight, he has managed to say ‘I am sorry that you feel that way’, however, at that point in the argument, his words are usually dripping with heavy sarcasm and blame because his ‘not so hidden’ agenda is to be sure that I know that my feelings are my responsibility and not his. I am sure you can imagine how well this lands with me 🙂

For me, another reason it feels good to hear him say ‘I’m sorry’, is because even when he is pretending not to be, I KNOW he IS sorry, but his anger and triggers are covering those feelings. Once he acknowledges how he really feels, his energy softens and he is much more compassionate and caring. At that point, I know that he is really ready to work things out, and not just continue to argue about who is right and who is wrong.

My husband and I often refer to a love story we saw years ago on netflix. The couple, who had been madly in love, gets in a really ugly fight, and the boyfriend asks his favorite older female relative for advice. She tells him to say ‘I’m sorry’.

He responds with, ‘But it isn’t my fault! Why should I?’
The woman responds with, ‘That doesn’t matter. Women like to hear I’m sorry.’

She goes on to say, ‘Do you love her?’
He says, ‘You know I do’.
She says, ‘Do you want to be with her?’.
He says, ‘Of course I do’.
The old woman says, ‘Then say your sorry. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, that is what she wants and needs to hear. She needs to hear that you are sorry. So get over yourself and say it.’

Having the willingness to put things in the other person’s language can really help bridge the communication gap. It can be just what is needed to begin the process of actually resolving a difficult issue rather than continuing down the path of a familiar and painful argument.

I find that until we are both ready to feel vulnerable, and acknowledge that we are ‘sorry’ or that we feel bad about what happened, we don’t usually make any movement toward resolution. We are usually still too stuck in our own perspectives and too unwilling to be vulnerable to actually figure out what is going on.

Consider your own resistance to saying ‘I am sorry’. You may find that it is often some need to be right, some fear of being wrong, some fear of being blamed or persecuted, or some fear or concern about not being able to stand up for yourself. You may also find that underneath that resistance, you really and truly are sorry and feel badly about your own behavior, or at the very least, feel badly that the other person is hurting.

It is important to remember that sorry doesn’t have to mean that it is anyone’s fault. It can simply be an acknowledgment that you feel bad, that you care about the other, and that you truly want to work things out in a way that feels good to both of you.

Having the courage and fortitude to get past your own resistance, and acknowledge that you are sorry, even when you don’t want to, can go a long way towards both people feeling loved.





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