The three hardest words to say?
I love you. (No.)
I was wrong. (Maybe but maybe not—sorry MJH.)
I’m so sorry. (Yep, ‘fraid so.)
Sure, to tell someone you love them makes you vulnerable. That’s hard, but shouldn’t be.
And to admit you were wrong is an admission that you are human and make mistakes. That’s hard to admit, but get used to it because more mistakes are on the way.
But “I’m so sorry” is asking for something much riskier than someone’s love—it’s asking for their forgiveness.
From the heart, an I’m so sorry is more than admitting that you’re fallible—it’s also taking responsibility for any pain caused by your wrongdoing.
And that may be the suckiest feeling ever.
Most of us like to move on from our mistakes, right? Shit happens. Admit your mistake and try not to do it again. End of story.
But is it over? Perhaps for us, but how about the person we hurt?
I can tell you now—it’s not. And not for us either. It’s like an open wound we’ve learned to live with. It may not cause us the pain it did when inflicted; it certainly hasn’t healed either.
For the past few years, I’ve known there was someone I needed to apologize to. At the time, my actions seemed justified and perhaps even honorable. But it wasn’t long before I realized they were neither.
I was wrong, I admitted. But only to myself.
Surely it was water under the bridge and forgotten, perhaps by the one I’d hurt… or at least that was the story lie I told myself to feel better. But I was wrong—again.
A few months ago, I reached out to this person in a note. I’m so sorry, I wrote from the heart. Even if she had moved on, I couldn’t without at least letting her know how special she was— and how wrong I was. She deserved to know my regret. It was the least I could do. But she was worthy of more.
We met for lunch. Face to face. I’m so sorry, I admitted again. And then I listened as she shared her hurt. I recognized the pain in her eyes. I’ve felt that hurt and carry with me wounds from others. It was really hard to know I was the inflictor this time. And almost more painful.
But not even for a moment did I regret going back in time to mend what I’d broken. Even if I’d walked away from our lunch without her forgiveness, it was the right thing to do—and therefore, the only thing to do.
I’m so sorry.
Sans any justification to follow. No excuse and no hope for exoneration. It’s the least we can do.
It’s not easy to go backwards. And I certainly don’t recommend you do it often, though definitely as necessary. Because sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward as the wrongs in our past become like a weight that holds us back. Worse yet, someone else is weighed down as well.
But we hold the key that can free us both. And that freedom begins with the three hardest words.
I’m so sorry.
They may very well might be the three most powerful words as well.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel