Two small words that too often are too hard to say and so inadequately describe how you feel and what you really want to express. They can be such an oversimplification of such a complicated and complex situation.
They work well for small offenses like accidentally bumping into someone on the street. But when you offend or hurt someone so deeply these two simple words – I’m sorry – don’t even come close to what you really want to say. Because the truth is no words can ever fully undo the damage caused or the hurt felt.
We use two small words to try and express apology, regret, remorse, determination to change, and so much more. How can two words summarize and encompass all those things?
I don’t think they truly can. Because sometimes you want to look at the person you hurt and say “I should have never said the things I did.” Or you wish to tell the person “I am disappointed in myself and cannot believe the person I turned into”. Sometimes you want to say “I made a mistake and I know it deeply hurt you and all I want to do is take away that pain that I caused you but I can’t figure out how”. Other times you want to say “I am changing and working to be a better person and I would really like the opportunity to show you who I am now.” All these sentiments and more are often summed up by saying “I’m sorry.”
The truth is words sometimes have a way of failing us. We use them to express what we are feeling and thinking, but too often the words we say don’t measure up to what is really going on inside. We do the best we can to express those feelings which is why we apologize and say I’m sorry to each other.
How do you respond when those words are said and you still feel hurt? There isn’t a good way to measure how sorry a person is. So is it an eye for an eye? Do you turn the other cheek? Do you hold on to your anger, bitterness, and resentment? Do you forgive?
It is so important to acknowledge the ways you have wronged your spouse, apologize, and work to do better. It is equally important to forgive your spouse and extend mercy even when it feels like it is not deserved, because God has extended unfailing mercy and forgiveness to each one of us even though we are so unworthy to receive it.
Most people know that simply saying the words I’m sorry doesn’t make up for their offense. A genuine apology also requires action and a determination to show remorse by making a conscious change and doing better in the future.
That change that takes place can then be accepted or rejected by the person who was wronged. Sometimes they might not even see the change if they are still holding onto bitter and angry feelings and can’t see past the hurt they feel. Hopefully that change after apologizing brings reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.
So why even say I’m sorry if it inadequately describes and cannot really express the deep sorrow and regret you feel? Because although it simplifies the complexities and doesn’t measure up to the hurt you caused, sometimes there isn’t much else you can do to try to heal the pain you caused, show you are holding yourself accountable for your actions, and try to do what you can to make it right moving forward. It is impossible to take back something that was said and done because it is in the past. All you can do is try to tell the person you wronged you are sorry, that you wish things had been different and that you are making a decision to do better in the future. “I’m sorry” doesn’t heal all wounds by itself, but it is a gesture and a step toward reconciliation and hopefully making things better in the future. It’s saying you want a fresh start and hoping for a second chance.