What About “I’m Sorry”?

Two incidents in the last two days prompt this post.

First, yesterday I learned that someone I had shared some news with confidentially had shared the news with at least one other person.  He knew what I shared was confidential, he knew why I did not want him sharing it, and he agreed to keep the news quiet.  Yet, from the timing of when the person he told turned around and shared the news with a third person, it appears he wasted no time in breaching trust.  When I confronted him yesterday, telling him I was angry, all he said was “You have a right to be angry.”  No hint of apology.

Second, we have a group of students for whom it is extremely difficult to find times to schedule meetings given their varied schedules.  Having found two time blocks that work for everyone, we have told the group (multiple times) to keep those two blocks free until they received an actual schedule of meetings.  A meeting was scheduled for Friday (yesterday) afternoon and notice of that sent out earlier in the week.  On Thursday late afternoon one of the students rushed in to me to say she had, several weeks ago, planned to be away this weekend and was leaving Friday morning.  The most I got, after reminding her that she was told to keep the block open was “I probably should have told you this earlier.”  Ya think?   No “sorry for causing you all wasted time and energy” or “I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

We get this sort of thing all the time in the public realm.  Public officials who can’t get any further in acknowledging their wrongdoing than “mistakes were made”, as though those pesky little mistakes created themselves.  The words “I’m sorry” rarely pass their lips.

But I guess I don’t expect that same inability to apologize in personal relations.  I never liked the line in Love Story that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  It matters to say “I’m sorry.”  It matters both for the person who messed up – intentionally or not – to take ownership of the impact of their action or inaction on the person they affected. And it matters to the person harmed to hear the words.

The First Letter of John asks if we don’t love the people we can see, how can we love the God we cannot see.  I wonder if we might ask: If we can’t express contrition to those we can see, how much do we really mean it when we express our contrition to the God we cannot see.

Update: I just received an e-mail apology from one of the two people described above.  Whether it was a result  of reading my post, or just having had time to reflect, the apology is appreciated.

5 thoughts on “What About “I’m Sorry”?

  1. I hear and appreciate your frustration for I too never have believed for a minute that goofy line from Love Story. The desire to express true contrition for hurting someone, for violating her or his trust or for being the cause of inconvenience is a necessary component for human and spiritual growth. Sad some find it so hard to say sincerely three little words: I am sorry. Thanks for sharing your perfectly reasonable and understandable feelings.

  2. Well said, Susan. It seems ours is a culture wherein most folks have little willingness to own their behavior, and say “Im sorry” when they have errored.
    If the adults dont model this, how can we expect the children to say “Im sorry.”

  3. My reply didnt post. What did I do wrong? What do I type in where it asks for “Website”? Thx, Ann Bodensteiner

    Breathe, be patient with thyself.


  4. Thank you for this sharing! I find it most difficult to say, “I’m sorry” to those closest to me–those words open up the possibility of the other responding with “I forgive you” or I’m so angry, I am not ready to forgive you!” Taking the risk to ask forgiveness is an opportunity for grace to flow back and forth between two on the same journey–if only we trust!

    • When I say “Im sorry” to someone, my apolgy is not contingent on their response. I offer my apology to keep myself right with God, to prevent a resentment from growing in me, to keep my side of the street clean, and to let the other person know I want to own my error, and hopefully, bring reconcilliation. The other person is free to accept or not accept my apology, I cannot control their response. This approach has been helpful and freeing for me, esp in difficult situations. I think it is what Jesus asks of me… Even tho my heart may not always be contrite at the moment, at least Im stepping out to do the right thing– own my misstep

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