Why is saying I am sorry so hard? You want to say it. You truly mean it. But you just can’t get the words out…..Why is that?
It is easier for something you only accidentally said or did. Bumping someone with the grocery cart, taking to much time at the counter, spilling a bit of beer on their foot. Funny but you can quickly and easily say “sorry” for minor inconveniences–when it is least significant. It is especially easy if the other is a stranger. I can throw out a casual but meant “sorry” with a warm smile instantaneously.
It is somewhat harder to apologize for something you said or did, but that they were never intended to know of—-it is akin to accidental even if you were being a jerk. You truly did not intend to hurt them so….Sorry. Meaning the old “sorry I got caught” not really sorry I said or did it. For some reason, it seems to be harder the closer the relationship is (or was.) You aren’t admitting you are culpable for what you said or did but are acknowledging that you were obligated to be more careful of the other’s feelings. That stings a bit.
Then there is the little thing said or done carelessly or on purpose to jab the other person. Sarcasm is way to frequently used for this, and the world demands the injured party laughs it off giving the offender a free pass. I just detest that–don’t you? I have long ago quit playing this game. You said it, so own it. Other times, it is barefaced. If the injured party stands their ground, it becomes apparent that some effort at an apology is needed. Then one may be grudgingly given, with resentment that itself wants an apology. How weird is that? Other times, the need for an apology is recognized and given sincerely but it is harder to do. EXCEPT in Asian (Korean especially) dramas. They do apologize and it is portrayed as meaning sooooooo much. It makes it all better.
But today I am talking about the deliberate word or action that intended to inflict maximum hurt. Often it will permanently destroy the relationship so finding an opportunity to apologize is not easy–may even have to be sought out. It seems much easier to just let it go. “Don’t open old wounds,” etc. The problem is that if you are anywhere close to a decent human being the shame and guilt never goes away. EVER. It leads to regret which will follow you to your death bed. Even if you know or think you have been forgiven.
We often hear that forgiveness is for the one hurt. You let it go so it doesn’t hurt you anymore. It is a crucial step in allowing the emotional scars to form and fade. It can take a lifetime to forgive someone. It is a choice and doesn’t require an apology. However, in my experience, the apology would make a HUGE difference.
Conversely, the apology is for the offender. The harder it is, then the more important it is to offer the words, I think. That is what lets you set down the weight of guilt and shame, and lets the emotional scar form and fade over the regrets. Society spends a lot of time on forgiveness and how to do it. Not nearly as much time is spent on “I am genuinely and deeply sorry.” Why is that do you suppose? Is you mom saying to you as a child–“Tell him you are sorry,” suppose to be adequate training? It isn’t. Apologizing is just too hard.
Where are the sermons and self-improvement books on the subject? One of the hardest things for a person to do, but that they desperately want to do is rarely ever discussed. I can only think of one example in the movies and that is Mel Gibson in What Women Want. It is a vital half of the social equation. I wish it got more attention.