The many Shades of “I’m Sorry”


I’m strange about saying I’m Sorry. I may say it too often, but I say it for many reasons. It is a way to connect, to work through a problem, and to demonstrate my willingness to listen and be open to solutions.

Here is the crux of the matter folks. “I’m Sorry” does NOT always mean, I am guilty, I screwed up, or I regret doing something. I go nuts when I say “I’m Sorry” to someone and they reply – “it’s not your fault,” or “it’s okay” or some variation thereof! Please, don’t misunderstand the rhyme and reason of SORRY. It is an all-purpose word, capable of portraying vast meaning and expression.

According to Macmillan English Dictionary

  • it is used for emphasizing how bad, stupid, or embarrassing something is
  • it is used for emphasizing that something is so bad that it makes you feel sympathy
  • it is used when you are ashamed, embarrassed, or unhappy about something that you have done
  •  it is used when you are feeling sadness or sympathy for someone because something bad has happened to them
  • it is used when you are disappointed about a situation, and wishing you could change it

Most of the time, when I say “I’m Sorry,” I am encompassing the sympathetic, empathetic meanings of the expression. It doesn’t mean I regret messing something up, although I will embrace that meaning when necessary – I don’t believe it is a sign of weakness or subservience to tell someone you understand and are unhappy that you caused someone grief, physically, emotionally or otherwise!

I’m Sorry is a lesson to be learned, a method to be employed and a vision of relationships where you can reach out to others, providing your strength and/or understanding in helping others move forward through problems, unhappiness or sorrow.  It is a lesson many adults have not learned, and that children need to be taught from a very young age. In order to communicate with those you love, or even strangers, you must be willing to open yourself to awareness of their feelings, and their points of view. Being willing to express yourself in such circumstances is vital to human interaction.

I truly believe, and embrace as a personal tenet that  “Only if you find peace within yourself will you find true connection with others.” Movie quote from: Before Sunrise (1995)


It is a mark of personal growth if you can let go of the perception that you are admitting guilt or wrongness in saying “I’m Sorry.” Instead, you need to see it as a connective tissue between you and your family and friends. Yes, you apologize if you truly regret doing something painful to someone else.  You also express such sentiments to show your sorrow, disappointment or remorse for a situation that someone else is experiencing. It is a way of vulnerability, too, in that you are opening up and saying I feel you, I hear you, I understand.

OH, and there is a codicil to this blog today – ACCEPTANCE of “I’m Sorry.” Whether someone says it to you as an expression of personal regret for pain caused, or is offering a caring hand in sharing a negative experience, you have to be willing to be open enough to value their expression, and accept it. Ah, I can hear some of you saying, “what if I can’t accept an apology, or I am not in a place that I want to let someone in who is expressing empathy?”

Then you, in your turn, need to open up enough to give a kind, if honest, response. “I appreciate your apology. I am still angry and upset, so can we talk again next week?” Or – “I am glad I have a friend (relative) like you, but right now I am feeling very tender emotionally, and need some time to myself. May I call you next month?” Word it however you like – but reach out! Express your thanks, speak briefly of what you are feeling, and then make a sincere effort to reconnect at a later date.

I’m sorry if this post makes you uncomfortable – I hope that it will bring, now or later, a sense of peace and rightness to your relationships with others.  I do understand how hard such changes can be; I have a dear friend from whom I am estranged, with no real way back to a comfortable friendship, and a sister that I haven’t spoken to for 15 years. Saying I’m sorry doesn’t bring instant forgiveness. But saying I’m sorry in other contexts can be emotionally freeing, allowing you to face the reality that relationships are hard work – and in one way or another you can express yourself in a simple way, even if you are expressing complex ideas. Communication, interaction, participation in the dance of humanness – THAT is what is important. Blessings in the week ahead!

NO reproduction without permission, image is the work of Ed Hulka

Sunrise in Arizona, August ~ Ed Hulka Photography


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About ReaderWoman

Professional reader and researcher for writers - Reviewer and Editor for online book review sites - AVID reader (well, duh!) writer, crafter (sewing, jewelry, fiber art) photographer, herb gardener, love to learn new things - Married 3842 years, 2 "kids" (now 34 and 36) and two grands (13 and 15) Born and raised California Girl, with stints in Tennessee, learning to speak Southern, and Arizona, learning that living in a trailer is NOT fun! Enjoy conversations with wine and chocolate, long walks and being with hubby and family. Life is good!
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4 Responses to The many Shades of “I’m Sorry”

  1. A beautiful commentary on “I’m Sorry”. If more people understood the full meaning of this they might be able to say “I’m Sorry” when necessary more often. As kids, we learn to try to worm around this phrase in various ways. As adults, if we read the dictionary as you have, we could find a way to let the worming around relax. I learned long ago that saying “I’m sorry” wasn’t such a traumatic thing in life and to own up to my mistakes was a lesson learned. It made things so much easier but sometimes even I’m sorry doesn’t make situations go away. We have to keep plugging away in spite of them.

    • ReaderWoman says:

      You are so right that it doesn’t make situations go away – but at least you make the effort and open things up for dialog – if it doesn’t happen, then you can move forward knowing that you gave it your best efforts, no regrets!

  2. Deb says:

    You make so many good points in this post! Thanks for being wise.

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