August 9, 2014

Love Means Never Having to Say Sorry. ~ Erin Brandao

Christian Gonzalez/Flickr Creative Commons

I admit, the title may sound controversial, but it’s not an untrue statement.

I’ve decided to eliminate the word sorry from my vocabulary.

No, I haven’t achieved perfection as an enlightened being who will never again make mistakes or need to be forgiven. Instead, I’m moving away from empty and unnecessary apologies and towards more active ways to show love for myself and others.

There’s a new commercial making the rounds on the internet which illustrates situations in which women apologize unnecessarily.

After seeing the commercial I began to notice how often I say sorry. It hasn’t been proven definitively if women truly do apologize more frequently than men, but in my own experience I have found that I say, “I’m sorry,” more often than necessary.

I apologize for things that aren’t my fault or even in my control.

It feels disempowering, and now I cringe when I catch myself saying it. It can be difficult to break such an ingrained habit, so I’m arming myself with options to use in place of those words.

For instance, if I don’t hear what someone just said, instead of saying, “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

I try to say, “I didn’t hear you, can you please repeat that?”

I used to automatically say sorry if I bumped into someone, even if it was the other person’s fault. Now, instead of immediately apologizing and taking the blame, a simple smile and shrug suffice.

I’m learning to be polite and kind without being a doormat.

One common instance when the word sorry gets thrown around often is when someone is suffering or going through a hard time. In this case, we didn’t do anything to cause their pain so no apology is needed.

My wife helped to point this out to me. When she was having a hard time I would always say, “I’m sorry,” and she would respond, “For what? You didn’t do anything.”

Saying “I’m sorry” here is really short hand for “I feel sorry for you,” which is more condescending than helpful. What I am trying to express when I say sorry in this instance is sympathy.

Now, when I have a friend who is down, I say something like, “I feel for you. How can I support you?”

Or, “I’m thinking of you during this difficult time.”

Not only does it sound better and more sincere, it opens up the opportunity for me to truly help them.

Finally, I am trying to stop saying sorry for mistakes I did make.

When you are hurt or wronged by someone, a simple “sorry” can feel empty and meaningless. The damage has been done, and words can’t undo it.

Instead, now I admit what I did was wrong and ask how to make amends.

This idea isn’t new—the 12 step programs have been preaching it for years.

I’m working on replacing “I’m sorry” with, “I made a mistake, how can I help to fix it?”

Or, “I could have made a better choice. What can I do now to make it up to you?”

If we’re sorry then we won’t need to say it because our actions will show we mean it. Make it right and there is no need for words.

In a way then, love does mean never having to say you’re sorry. Love yourself enough to stop apologizing for things that aren’t your fault.

Love someone who is struggling enough to provide real empathy and aid, instead of just empty words.

And, love those you have hurt enough to make amends, not just apologize, for the wrongs you have done to them.



Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Christian Gonzalez/Flickr Creative Commons


Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Erin Brandao