One of the expressions that I teach our children from the time that they are very young is “I’m sorry.” When one child hurts another in the classroom or on the playground, we gently remind the offender to say that he or she is sorry.
Unfortunately, I believe that like so many expressions that we use multiple times a day, the true sentiment of “I’m sorry is often absent. This occurred to me recently when my husband reported back pain, to which I replied, “I’m sorry your back hurts.”
Very often, when I express my sorrow for someone’s pain, I am told something like, “It’s not your fault that my back hurts. Why should you be sorry?” Does that mean we need some form of culpability in order to feel sorrow? I don’t think so.
One of the clearest memories I have of my mom is that she was always sorry if I was in pain for any reason. Of course, I never told her that it was her fault that I hurt. Instead, I just accepted it as an illustration of compassion and love. It clearly made an important, lasting impression. My earnest hope is that I extended the same sentiment with my own kids when they experienced loss or pain. I believe that I did.
And so I do everything in my power as an educator to teach the concept of compassion. It’s one thing to deliver a rushed “I’m sorry” to a classmate who just crashed and burned on the cement. It’s quite another to look that child in the eye and communicate, “I sincerely feel sad that you are in pain. I hope that you heal quickly.”
As adults, we similarly have the same range of emotional expression. When you lose a loved one, be certain that I understand the profundity of your pain. I will do anything and everything to support you. Shalom.