I am sorry. Undoubtably three of the most powerful words in our vocabulary. The only more power filled triad is “I love you.” Why is it so difficult to utter those word without attaching conditions to the apology?
I do not know the answer. Maybe it is because we need to explain or justify our behavior. Maybe we feel those three words need an explanation. Maybe we are not courageous enough to rest in the silence create by our humility and vulnerability.
For me, “I am sorry,” when spoken by another, is an energy that flows over the tatters of my soul, soothes the inflammation, and encourages my healing. With those words we bare our souls while opening our self to another even though we do not know how we will be received. And, within those words echo: I love you. I respect you. I acknowledge that I hurt you. Forgive me.
When the apology continues after the sorry, what follows diminishes the power of the words. When that happens, I call those apologies the if sorry, the but sorry, and the sorry sidestep.
- I am sorry if — signals a refusal to accept responsibly for the hurt caused.
- I am sorry but — continues with a defense of the person’s action.
- The sorry sidestep — this usually begins by thanking you for loving the other person enough to forgive them for (fill in the blank.)
When each of these happen, I am caught in the headlights of my suffering. With an if or a but, I can acknowledge the inability of another person to own behavior. The sidestep requires the compassion of enough. I gently share my love while letting the other know that we feel hurt or disrespected by their actions.
The compassion of enough is loving and gentle while holding the other responsible for their actions. In this space, we are aware of the suffering that manifests in the refusal to accept responsibility for the hurt caused and for defensive behavior. We are aware of deflection by another. Through this awareness we are humble and vulnerable. We trust that the cries of suffering emanating from them are healed through the compassion of enough.
I understand that uttering “I am sorry” is less for the other person than for me. It is first an act of self compassion. I hear those three words, eight letters, echo in the marrow of my soul: I love me. My intent is to cause no harm. I shower compassion on myself and the world. I shine my authentic spirit into a world that is uncertain and imperfect.