I have a rule in my classroom that you can’t say you’re sorry unless you hit someone with a hammer on purpose or by mistake. Either scenario would warrant an apology. Otherwise, keep your “I’m sorry” to yourself.
My high school students will preface a question with “I’m sorry, but–” as if: 1. It isn’t my paid job to help them, and 2. They are somehow hurting me by showing interest in what we’re doing. My students say sorry for passing me in the hallway. Sorry for having to use the restroom. Sorry for laughing too hard.
So I made up a rule. No Sorry in Wanket World
(My married name is Mrs. Wanket, which is what my students call me, if there is confusion.)
I read an interview years ago with an etiquette expert who suggested that it is rude to enter a room apologizing when one is late. The point of good manners is to think of other people’s feelings first and thus oil the social gears of daily life. Interrupting everyone’s flow by announcing an apology for lateness doesn’t help anybody. The best thing to do is to show up on time. The second best is to enter the room unobtrusively.
People say “I’m sorry” to mean “please think it’s okay for me to speak now,” or “please like me,” or “hello.” I can’t imagine what is going through the mind of the woman I pass coming out of a public restroom who says “I’m sorry” as I am going in. Has she left behind something so awful that she feels she owes me an apology?
The word “sorry” is such a powerful word for good when said with thought and care. Anyone who has waited for a deeply deserved apology that will never come knows the true power of “sorry”. It’s such an important word that it should never be used for a stupid purpose such as seeking approval or permission or attention.
Advice to myself: No saying sorry unless I hit someone with a hammer by mistake or on purpose, or the equivalent thereof. Then, sorry is the least of what I should say.
When have you been truly sorry for something? What was the effect of your apology on the relationship? What would you do differently, if anything, if you could go back and have a do over?
Experiment with going a whole day without saying sorry unless you do something hurtful and must apologize. In your journal, reflect on how often you had the urge to apologize. Do your friends notice that you say sorry often, even when you have committed no offense? How did it feel to release “sorry” for a day? What purpose is the word serving for you besides expressing contrition or asking forgiveness?
Is there someone to whom you owe a true apology, but for some reason that hasn’t happened? Write a short letter to that person in your journal, expressing your true feelings and asking for forgiveness.