We all say, “I’m sorry,” far more often than we should. In fact, I do it all the time — even when I did nothing wrong. I usually say those words because I feel bad that something happened to someone I love or because I genuinely feel sorry for something I did.
Unfortunately, most of us use “sorry” like it’s a magic word. During our childhood, we learned that an apology magically freed us from any trouble. We learned to say, “I’m sorry,” because the other person would instantly forgive us and our life would instantly return to normal.
However, we grow up and think the magic word “sorry” can still help us make everything right in the world like it did when we were kids.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.
An apology is only the first step of acknowledging the fact that you did something wrong. The second step is far more important: You actually need to show the other person that your apology means something. You need to put your words into action so your loved ones know you won’t make the same mistakes again.
For example, I recently offered unsolicited advice and told one of my friends how she should handle a breakup. She then replied, “No I can’t do that!” I pushed her on the issue several times, and she grew frustrated with me. Eventually, she said, “I need to do this my own way, in my own time.”
At that moment, I realized that I needed to apologize. However, I didn’t just say, “I’m sorry,” and leave it there. I stopped pushing the subject with my friend and let her get over the breakup how she wanted.
I think almost all of us use the word “sorry” as a blanket statement to get out of any difficult situation we end up in. However, if you don’t acknowledge what you did wrong or take responsibility for your mistakes, then you’re not really sorry and the cycle will continue. When you finally put your apology into action, though, you will understand that it takes more than just one word to fix what you did wrong.
Maya Angelou once said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Unfortunately, many of us find it easier to keep saying “sorry” but skip the follow through with our actions. Until this happens, “I’m sorry” will just be a phrase that has no meaning behind it, which isn’t really helpful to anyone.
We need to redefine “sorry” not as a magic word, but as a word that symbolizes change. An apology shouldn’t end with the words — it should start a growth process that improves our relationships. If we use “sorry” the way we are supposed to and let our actions speak louder than our words, then it will truly become a magical word. So let’s stop using “sorry” as a blanket statement and start transforming ourselves for the better!