The word sorry is often overused and misunderstood. Many use it frequently without having made an intentional mistake. This often reflects low self-esteem or self-worth. On the other hand, many use it repeatedly seeking relief of guilt without behavioral modifications, which often reflects lack of empathy or self-discipline and can cause serious trust and relationship issues.
Do these scenarios sound familiar in your life, or perhaps in the life of a loved one? If so, the little tidbits in this article may help you and your loved ones by increasing awareness and giving some insight into the power of language and the use of frequent apologetic language.
Before we take a look at the definition of sorry, let’s do a short exercise. As most words differ in definition according to an individual’s interpretation, take one minute to increase personal clarity by asking yourself, “What does the word sorry mean to me and what am I saying while portraying it in every day usage?” Come on now, don’t cheat and check the dictionary; you can do it. What does sorry mean to you?
Now remember your definition as we explore how Webster defines sorry: 1) feeling mournful or sad (at someone’s misfortune); i.e., disheartened, compassionate, or concerned. 2) feeling sorrow, regret, or penitence (for having wronged); i.e., remorseful, guilty, or ashamed. Now let’s explore what this means for you as an individual and how you can use the power of language as a personal empowerment and relationship enhancement tool by applying collective knowledge of the word sorry.
Look at Webster’s first definition. Ever feel sorry because of someone’s loss or misfortune? Society would see this as being a healthy reaction, but have you ever asked yourself what it means and why we feel sorry when others hurt? Feelings are sensitivities to emotions that increase our awareness of something and prompt us to action. That being the case, how about the next time you feel sorry for someone, you remind and ask yourself, “At this moment, sorry means that I am feeling compassion and concern for someone who has experienced misfortune. Since the sole purpose of this feeling is to increase my awareness and prompt an action on my part, what can I do to express the compassion and concern I am feeling for this person in pain?” Remember action is much bigger than words, so consider making a real difference in someone’s life that is hurting by putting your words into action, in lieu of a simple apologetic phrase during times of pain.
Webster’s second definition of sorry explains that we are feeling sorrow or regret for having wronged someone. Are you someone who finds yourself apologizing frequently for mistakes or mishaps? If so, you are hereby urged to get these behaviors under control because it is detrimental to all relationships. Continual apologies without behavioral modification erodes the trust of others. At some point, those around you will simply tolerate instead of embrace you. If you notice this trend, don’t be hard on yourself, but get some help and honest feedback to overcome it, beginning immediately.
In order to develop or reestablish the confidence of others, when you feel sorry, ask yourself, “What lesson(s) can I gain from this mistake or mishap, what can I do differently next time, and what boundaries must I set in place to make sure this does not happen again?” Remembering feelings are there to increase awareness and prompt action; in lieu of apologizing, let the other party know what lesson(s) you learned, what you will do differently next time, and what boundaries you set in place to ensure the behavior is not repeated. Communicating this information, being honest, and then keeping your word will establish or rebuild the confidence others have in you and sorry will become less necessary in time.
On another note, if you are someone who apologizes frequently and carelessly without having intentionally wronged someone, ask yourself, “What am I sorry for, what do I want the other person to hear, and what is this saying about me?” Then consider working on your self-esteem and self-worth with confidence building exercises. Assuredly, there is nothing about you to be sorry for so be cautious when allowing that small but powerful word into your vocabulary.
Sorry is a beautiful word when used minimally and meaningfully and backed up by thoughtful action. There is great power in the language we use everyday, so it is important that we listen to what we are saying and understand the messages being portrayed and the intentions from which they came.
Brigitte Ranae, Certified Life Coach
President of Ready to Live Inc.
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