For as long as I can remember, I have been liberally saying the words, “I’m sorry.” This is not one of those realities that is uncomplicated. As a teacher and a parent, I have always advocated delivering apologies for hurting someone or doing any other kind of disservice.
This is another type of sorry that is often difficult for others to understand. When someone I care about is in pain or has experienced an injury, I say that I am sorry. When someone loses something or someone, I am sorry. The immediate response is often that there is no need for me to be sorry because I was in no way at fault.
Perhaps we have the power to deliver extraordinary kindness with two words – I’m sorry. Sorry means that I wish you weren’t in pain. It also means that your inconvenience or loss also diminishes me, even though I was in no way involved.
Is there any other way to achieve the same result? We might want to express the same sentiment in other terms such as, I wish that you weren’t in pain or in a difficult situation. Or we could try, I hope that your discomfort or sadness soon come to an end. From this standpoint, I’m sorry says quite a bit more with substantially fewer words.
This is a statement that I often make in the classroom. A student comes in from the playground with a scrape or bump and I automatically say that I’m sorry. Kids inevitably ask me why. My response is generally that I feel bad because they are hurting and hope that their injury or accident heals quickly. Surprisingly, they always get it.
Because my responsibility is to teach life lessons as well as math, science, reading and social studies, this is another one of those feelings that kids need to model.
Before going overboard by feeling bad for every tragedy or misfortune, I am careful to be sorry only for those I know. If you ask my advice, I suggest that you let those who matter know that you care enough to be sorry. Shalom.