Wednesday, January 18, 2012


It's funny how hard it is for some people to say they are sorry.  In fact, some people have all kinds of ways to actually avoid saying it at all.  There are the roundabout pseudo apologies like "IF I have done anything to hurt or offend you, please forgive me."  and "I stand corrected".  Both of which simply say..."I am NOT going to SAY I'm sorry...but I hope you will think I have said it so that I can continue doing everything exactly as I've done before.

Then, there are the apologies which come seriously delayed, after every other possible stall tactic has been tried.  Once one realizes that, really, the ONLY way they can save face for their own selfish reasons is to finally say "I'm sorry"...they say it.  Even if a year has passed.  Or years.  

Of course, there are those who will never say it at all.  For, to admit one has wronged another is a mighty hard thing to do. 

My eldest son struggled with this concept throughout his childhood.  He would do something he shouldn't have done, or accidentally hurt someone...or hurt someone on purpose....and when the subject of apologizing would come up he would say "BUT...I didn't mean to hurt him!"  I would then have to go into the monolog about how even if we don't mean to hurt someone, and especially when we haven't meant to hurt someone, an apology is what we give to the person we have hurt in order to express that we understand that we have hurt someone.

Can you see the concept soaring over my son's head? soared.  It literally had wings that would fly over him and out the window.

It's funny how some personality traits seem to be heritable.  It baffles scientists.  How is it possible for a child to inherit a personality?   Aren't personality traits learned?  Well...yes and no.  Some personality traits are learned.  And others...are heritable.  For example, mental health issues can be passed through family trees.  In my own's also strange the ability to apologize.  

The concept of being to blame for another person's heartache is apparently something that some of us have a hard time with.  I was raised by a father who believed that any suffering I experienced was my own fault through karma and/or perception.  So, if something he said or did or neglected to do caused my heart to was my fault and not his. 

I take issue with this. 

If I say or do something that causes my child pain, I apologize.  I may also explain why I did what I did, or why I said what I said.  I don't negate their feelings.  I don't act like I should not have to apologize, because, I know that when you hurt someone, the most important issue at hand is to repair the damage you have helped to create.  You say you are sorry.  And, you do it in a timely manner. 

I see that personality is heritable because, though my eldest son was raised away from my father, he has the same issues with empathy and compassion and accountability that my father has.  You can see the effects of my consistent teaching, because he shows glimmers of what he was taught, and is now, at the age of 21, able to accept that to make things right, he must be accountable and apologetic when he has said or done something to hurt another.  Even when he didn't mean to.  That's the part that was learned. 

My father has not yet learned this. 

It took him a year to apologize for hurting the feelings of one of my other sons.  A year.  I know that in that year, he basically came to the conclusion that there was no way he could get out of it if he ever wanted to be allowed to move forward.  So, he apologized.  It was looooong overdue. 

He also owes me a big whopping "I'm sorry" as well.  I don't expect to get it....but, maybe he will surprise me.  My suspicion is that he's only good for one douse of humility a year, so...maybe next year he'll be able to come to terms with the concept of being sorry for hurting someone that perhaps he didn't mean to hurt.  Without an apology, I can only assume he is glad he hurt me.  Why else would he resist making amends with his daughter who loves him so deeply? 

It reminds me of an obsure Dr. Suess story called Bartholomew Cubbins and the Oobleck.  In the story, a silly king asks his magicians to make something new fall from the sky.  And...something does fall.  It IS new. is awful.  The oobleck falls and falls, ruining everything around.  The king can not and will not admit that he has made a poor choice...and things get worse and worse.  Finally, the little boy, Bartholomew Cubbins, tells the king that he HAS to say he is sorry because he has really caused the whole village to suffer terribly.  The king finally wails that he is so very very very sorry...and suddenly, the oobleck stops falling.  It simply stops. 

Not being able to say you are sorry is a lot like allowing your village to be covered in Oobleck.  It will keep on falling until you own what you have done to another person.  The next time you suspect you have hurt someone, even when you didn't mean to, talk to them...hold their heart as a precious jewel...say you are so sorry for causing them pain, and explain how you will prevent that from happening again.  In that way, they will see that you mean your apology and understand what you did...

In doing that, you have not only apologized, you have opened the door for forgiveness.  It takes courage to own your actions...but it the effort that is required of any healthy relationship.  It doesn't come natural for us all, but it is a skill that can be learned.  It can be learned.  The first step in learning to do it. 


  1. The hardest word of all - and the one that said appropriately and compassionately could transform our planet. An insightful post, Sara.

  2. I grew up with a family where I actually had to apologize for causing my father to behave angrily. He has shown signs for changing this past year, but I doubt that he will apologize to me. And I am settled in that.

    Because sorry means "please forgive me" and it is a promise not to do something again. And that can be really scary for some people.

    So I am all right with his inability to apologize (or even recall) the hurt he caused that changed my life. But I will forever be a person capable of a humble and intensely meaningful "sorry."

    Thank you for your wonderful post. Wishing you light and love!


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