Friday, January 29, 2010

sorry . . .

I can't help thinking of Love Story whenever I hear someone say "I'm sorry." It's such a weak excuse, and one I use repeatedly. What on earth does it mean? Sorry when you hit someone inadvertently as you're shoving past them in a crowd? Or sorry that you insulted your best friend or significant other with panache yet again? Sorry big? Sorry little? It's not a word that works. We throw the word out as if we mean it. The other day I had an encounter with my own sibling. She walked all over me verbally and then when I stood up for myself, told me she was sorry. She apologized ten minutes later. It's a pattern, one I regrettably learned at my mother's knee. My father was sorry too, but he never actually knew what he was apologizing for. He'd manage to be sorry as he attacked you yet again. He had this odd aphasia about the way he acted, "what me? I'm the nice one," he seemed to be saying.

Anyhow, on to being sorry in my book. Muriel tells my young protagonist Sam that the word is useless. I agree with her. Sorry isn't ever enough. To make amends you have to be able to offer up more than a word, you have to understand more than that one word gives you and you can't expect to be let off the hook so easily, to walk away unscathed from whatever you've done to someone else.

Sorry only works for politely strong arming your way through the crowded streets in New York. Sorry doesn't work when you've spent a lifetime disappointing someone else. To make that up, you have to dig deeper. You have to show more. You have to give more. Only then can forgiveness come.

I'm going to let Amelia think about that, and I'm going to see what she does . . . I'm going to let her surprise me. I think she will. She's gotten me this far.

Sorry, how many times have we used it, and how much does it ever mean, and when is it enough? Now there's a question for you.

1 comment:

  1. Since I've read this post a few days ago it has triggered a lot of pondering. Why is it so hard to give a true apology? There's a wonderful short book called On Apology by Aaron Lazare that is filled with fascinating accounts of apologies by public figures for various scandals, politicians, and ordinary folk, and it looks at why some apologies afford healing while others deepen the hurt. I agree with you that authentic remorse for harmful behavior involves more than words, but actions that make amends.