How many times have you said “I’m sorry”?
How many times have you had someone say “I’m sorry” to you?
For the purposes of this Blog entry, I am not referring to those polite “I’m Sorry’s” that we utter in sympathy for someone’s suffering, or the ones we say when we accidentally spill a drink on someone’s clothing. No. I am referring to those times when the words “I’m sorry” are uttered as an apology for a wrongdoing that we have either committed, or has been committed against us.
A very long time ago I heard a wonderful analogy that explained why saying “I’m sorry” does nothing of any value to alleviate the situation that you are apologising for. Today, I will share that analogy with you.
Imagine your life as a rather large pin board (just humour me and do it, ok?) Now, imagine a wrongdoing as a drawing pin that is pushed into the large pin board of your life. Are you following me so far?
Now, imagine that the act of saying “sorry” leads to the removal of that drawing pin from the pin board. The drawing pin/wrongdoing has been removed but, what is left in the board?
A hole remains where that drawing pin was pushed in. It may have been removed, but there is still a permanent reminder that it was there at one point.
That is what happens each time we say “I’m sorry”. The words themselves do not erase the wrongdoing completely. It has been done. It cannot be “not done”. It is too late for that. Yes, there is no longer a drawing pin sticking in the pin board of your life, but there is evidence of its presence that will always be there.
Far too many people think that saying “I’m sorry” makes whatever they have done suddenly okay somehow; that it fixes the damage that has been done. It is simply not the case.
Now, I am not saying that you should not apologise for a wrongdoing, if you have committed one. You may be genuinely sorrowful, regretful and sorry for your actions. What I am saying is that simply saying “I’m sorry” is not enough.
It is far better to live in a way that pushes as few drawing pins into other people’s pin boards as possible, and it is far better to live in a way that acknowledges that a simple ‘I’m sorry’ does not completely undo the wrong committed.
Once you realise this, it makes it far easier to take responsibility for your actions towards yourself and others, and will provide you with the means to let your future actions facilitate an apology where one is warranted.
Isn’t it far better not to have to say “I’m sorry” to begin with? And isn’t it far better to know that you are going to need to do far more than simply utter those words if you do something that requires you to say them at all?
I certainly think so.