The Power of “I’m Sorry”

i-am-sorryby Cristin Patterson, LLPC, NCC

As social beings it is impossible to avoid hurting someone else, intentionally or unintentionally.  Many times this involves personally offending someone and injuring their self-concept.  The simple words, “I’m sorry”, come to be a crucial and powerful social skill, yet we hardly apply it correctly.

When used appropriately, “I’m sorry” establishes ownership for the hurtful action, repairs, and heals, but to do so it must be done successfully.  To execute a successful “I’m sorry”, empathy and strength are required.  Quite often “I’m sorry” takes on a more complex meaning and becomes harder to say, perhaps because it somehow has become a symbol of weakness or a symptom of imperfection.  “I’m sorry” begins to mean “Please don’t be upset with me”, “Please don’t think I am a bad person”, “I’m sorry you feel that way”, or “I’m sorry, but…

Sorry becomes less about making the person who has been hurt feel better and more about making the person who did the hurting feel better.  As a result, our interactions and relationships with others suffer as anger and resentments build up.  A successful apology requires strength to own up to the hurtful action.  Empathy allows the hurt party to be acknowledged and recognized that they have the right to feel hurt.  Making amends for a wrong doing is a necessary and cathartic experience for both parties.  This process does not undo the hurtful action, but opens the way for forgiveness and healing to occur in the relationship.

Trinity Family Counseling Center
45445 Mound Rd, Suite 111 Shelby TwpMI48317 USA 
 • 586-254-3663

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