“I’m sorry.” But are you really? Part 1.

Yesterday Mr 18 made a mistake.  Yesterday Mr 18 said “I’m sorry”.  Those two words annoyed me so much.  Angrily I said* to him “your words mean nothing, I need to see actions!”. (*screamed, shrieked, yelled like a wild banshee).  He got upset and said (rather loudly) “would you rather I sit here and say nothing?”   At the time I told him the words “I’m sorry” are overused and overrated and I wanted him to start taking responsibility and stop saying hollow “sorry’s”.    

Today, pondering the events of yesterday morning I got to thinking about the phrase “I’m sorry” and why it annoyed me so much.  I have come to the conclusion that “I’m sorry” along with “I love you” are the most overused and under meant words in the english language.  They are probably said more often than not without their true meaning being felt at that moment.  They are used as peace offerings, a way to smooth things over.  Sometimes they come out with very little thought.   I’m guilty of it.  Are you?

Yet, on the flip side, if those words aren’t said when I think they should be it’s even worse.  Had he sat in the car and said nothing, I would have gone postal.  Ok, I did already go postal, but it would have been a more postal type of postal.  He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.  Poor kid.  It was a no win situation for him.  He will not be missing the bus again any time soon.   A mother suffering PMS going postal in the car with nowhere for him to hide is not fun for anyone.  Anytime. 

Mr 16 and the man I love are the exact opposite.  They aren’t over users of “I’m sorry”.  They will only say it when they mean it.  Even if they should be sorry, they won’t say it until they actually feel sorry. Often this happens some time later.  At the time this makes me sad and very angry.   Whilst I don’t want them to say hollow empty words, I do want them to say “I’m sorry” when I want to hear it.  Unreasonable?  Possibly.

I’ve been accused of saying “I’m sorry” and not meaning it.   I have said it just to stop the argument.  I’ve said “I’m sorry” many times through gritted teeth, all the while seething knowing I hadn’t done anything that warranted an “I’m sorry”.   I say it so we can move on.  I don’t want to fight any longer.  I wish Mr 16 and the man I love would do that too.  Or do I?

When I truly think about this, I’m not sure that I do.  When they both tell me they are sorry, I know they have had time to think about what they have done or said and they truly are sorry.  It means so much more than a hollow “I’m sorry”.   Unfortunately for them, because I am such a “pleaser”, I say sorry because I think that’s what they want to hear.  It turns out it is not.  Poor Mr 18 is just like me.    

When Mr 18 came home from work with a strawberry Freddo Frog (my favourite) and an “I’m sorry mum”, I know he means it this time.   I know he’s thought about it and I know he’s a good boy.   Like me he does say “I’m sorry” without really meaning it, but I also know, like me, he will go away and think about it and come back later with the heartfelt version. 

I may not be a “by the book” mum, but I know I’ve taught my boys how to feel, how to love and how to grow emotionally.  In part II of “I’m sorry”, I have some really special things to share about how I taught my boys to really understand sorry. 

How do you feel about the words “I’m sorry”?  Am I the only one who feels this way?


About Annieb25

A mum to 2 teenage boys, would be writer, thirsty for knowledge, Radio Solution solver on Radio 1116 4BC and so much more!!
This entry was posted in Family, My Boys, Parenting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to “I’m sorry.” But are you really? Part 1.

  1. Naomi says:

    I feel exactly the same about saying sorry. It is over used a lot. I have had more than one moment letting my kids know that saying sorry doesn’t cut it if they don’t mean it, and that it’s not am excuse…. I would much prefer the action to words.
    Saying sorry, and saying I love you are over used, and the meaning is lost. As a dear friend of mine says, he likes to bank his words and save them for when they are really needed. I like that idea!
    Oh, and as for going postal in the car… I hear you!

    • Annieb25 says:

      I like what your friend says too – “bank his words and save them for when they are really needed.” Nice.

  2. Girl Clumsy says:

    Man, I apologise all the time. For everything. Even stuff that’s not my fault. The weather? “Yeah, I’m sorry it’s cloudy!”. The menu at a restaurant? “Oh, I’m sorry they don’t have what you like.” Giving someone a lift home? “I’m sorry my car’s messy.”

    I don’t know quite how I picked up this habit. Guess I figured I seem to do so many things wrong ALL THE TIME, that it’s just easier to throw it out there. Of course it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy – if I apologise so much for stuff, people seem to be much happier to blame you. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my guilt complex.

    I do know that a lot of people will say “Don’t apologise. It’s not your fault!” or “You apologise too much!”

    My answer – “I know, I know! I’m sorry.”

    • Annieb25 says:

      I know what you mean. I said sorry to Mike last night because the traffic was bad. I don’t think I was really responsible for Brisbane’s traffic chaos. Well I wasn’t last time I looked!

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  4. Jane says:

    I’m with Girl Clumsy. I’m totally guilty of apologising too much. At work a few weeks ago, and old lady came up and asked if the gym cafe was open. I told her, “It’s not today, I’m sorry” and she gave me a huge lecture for apologising when it wasn’t my fault. I literally couldn’t tell if she was joking or not. She told me that instead of “I’m sorry”, which she thought was completely overused, I should say something like, “It’s not open today unfortunately”. She had a point. But “sorry” does often come more naturally than it should.

    Great post. xx

    • Annieb25 says:

      That lady was very wise to give you that advice. I should abide by it too. I’m far too much of a people pleaser.

  5. Maxabella says:

    When I say “I’m sorry” I really, really mean it. I think saying “I’m sorry I… how can I make it better?” is a good way forward. Your boys are lucky to have such an emotionally connected mumma. They will be keepers.

    • Annieb25 says:

      Thank you lovely. I’m hell bent on making sure my boys have the skills to be emotionally connected. It is so important. So many males don’t have that ability – I don’t want my boys to be like that.

  6. Rachel says:

    My Dad use to say, “Don’t say your sorry unless you really mean it and you are going to learn by what you have done wrong”…. Its now what I teach my children. I agree whole heartily with your post the words we say should mean something…not just said cause its what we think the other person wants to hear, or to bring an end to a situation….

    • Annieb25 says:

      Your dad was very wise. I like that he added on – “you are going to learn by what you have done wrong”. That’s so important to pass on to your children.

  7. Alex says:

    I’m not a ‘talker’ so I don’t tend to apologize too much and I would never say I love you without meaning it (or drinking too much).

    I’m trying to teach my kids to say “I’m sorry, next time I will…” at least that way it has some meaning.

    • Annieb25 says:

      I wish I could stop myself saying “I’m sorry” so much. I don’t think I use “I love you” carelessly though. I like what you say to your kids too.

  8. Peter Brewer says:

    I’m Sorry, but I have to say this!.. I Love You Annie!

    • Annieb25 says:

      Haha – you obviously have Jetlag!! A perfect example of frivolous usage of said phrases! Have a great time in Vegas! Photos please.

  9. Jen says:

    I agree that I’m Sorry and I love you are overused and undermeant. I can’t wait to read your part two as we are at the moment trying to teach our children the times when we say sorry and that saying it is not a negative experience (especially for MR ASD who doesn’t believe at this time that he causes anything, but can argue that another person or things actions has caused his behaviour and so therefore is at fault. With this logic saying Sorry is said in anger each and every time as he does not believe he should say it) . I have been guilty of the damned if you do or don’t say sorry as well.

    • Annieb25 says:

      I can’t wait to post Part II. I like that you are trying to show that saying I’m sorry is not a negative experience. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you are right, it is so important.

  10. Liz K says:

    I’ve taught my children to say sorry when they’ve mucked up/hurt someone but it doesn’t stop there. If any of us do something wrong we need to apologize for the exact thing we did as well as cuddle which one of the family we hurt. If it’s someone outside the family we need to look and them and make eye contact. It helps with making them understand what they did that was wrong instead of just the empty words. I have to do it as well, not just the kids. My 12yo daughter has been getting lectures from me for some time on not just saying the words because it’s expected, that I want her not to have done what needs apologizing for rather than apologize and if she has to apologize then she’d better mean it and work hard on not doing the same again. I’m starting to work on that concept with my 6yo son now as well. It’s a fair way ahead of him to really understand but it’s a start 🙂 and for no at least he’s not walking away from his actions even if sometimes the apology is hollow.

    • Annieb25 says:

      It is a constant teaching and learning exercise with our kids. However if they have compassionate parents who try to do the right thing I think they will always end up the same as us. That makes me feel good.

  11. Tenille says:

    I’m guilty of saying “I’m sorry” too much, but I think I do it as an expression of empathy, rather than actually expressing remorse. This is particularly relevant when I’m at work (though most of the time even the sincerity behind the empathy isn’t there – I work in IT – I’m so over my job).

    • Annieb25 says:

      I think that’s exactly why I do it too. When I say “I’m sorry” because the traffic is bad, I’m really saying “I’m sorry you had to sit in the bad traffice”, rather than somehow the traffic was my fault. Sounds like you need a new job! If you are working on a help desk, I don’t blame you – I would be over that in a heartbeat.

  12. The problem for me is when you say I’m sorry and mean it, the other person doesn’t put it behind them………………. I agree actions speak louder than words

    • Annieb25 says:

      Yes I’ve had that sometimes. I think it’s because I give my “I’m sorry’s” away too frequently. The people I love don’t know if I’m being sincere or just saying it. A dilemma!

  13. Brenda says:

    I too am guilty of saying “I’m sorry” lots. But like Tenielle, it’s more an expression of sympathy for me. As for the “I love you’s” I love saying them and I love receiving them too. So there.=)

  14. While reading this I was hearing myself …. as I speak to my kids… ‘You have to do more than just say sorry .. you have to be sorry!!!!!’
    great post

  15. Cate P says:

    I grew up in a family that never said sorry, never admitted they were wrong, or even could be wrong, never said I love you, never even really showed it. So to be honest, I cherish someone saying “I’m sorry” or “I love you” or both.

  16. Bern Morley says:

    I don’t say either very much. Maddie seems to be saying it a lot, but not as a contrite, sorry person, more as an accusation. It’s on isn’t Annie. I’m in for it.

    You are a beautiful mother with a gorgeous heart. We all work that out later, when we grow up. xxx

  17. Sarah (Maya_Abeille) says:

    Saying sorry and demonstrating you mean it are so very helpful. I think saying sorry on its own is generally a good start, but depending on the nature of the transgression, rarely does a knee-jerk ‘sorry’ do anything other than offer a polite cease-fire. It doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. Some relationships seem to be able to skirt around the word but somehow get through on actions alone (a bit the same with ‘I love you’ I guess) but being a communicator, I like to hear those words and have them mean something. My parents were terrible at apologies, they always ended up being defensive as in “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry but I’M ONLY HUMAN” which is not really an apology is it? I used to feel angry about this but now I recognise that they were very bad at conflict resolution. I am trying to do things differently with my own children and try to let them see that when I do something that is unfair to them, I think about it, explain it so they know that I know what I’ve done is unfair and I’m not just saying sorry to appease them, and then I say what/how I will try to do things differently in future. If I feel like I also deserve an apology from them, only then will I say so and explain why, how what they did made me feel (even if I may have reacted inappopriately). I try to model this so they feel that issues are resolved and can confidently apologise to others sincerely without feeling like saying sorry means they have to take full responsibility for the conflict. I think being able to graciously accept a heartfelt apology is also an important skill – there are times have I worked up the courage to apologise to some one only to have them sniffly declare “yes, well, so you should because blah blah blah” which only serves to make the apologiser want to take it all back!! Ah the art of being a decent human being!

  18. Funnily enough, saying sorry always reminds me of “Happy Days”. The Fonz could never say it. Ever. Ritchie Cunningham always tried to make it say those two little words, but it was tough-as-nails Fonzie’s cryptonite.

    My 3yo is like Fonzie. He comes out with a pitiful ‘I’m soooozz’ and can’t look me in the eye. And as a 3yo boy you can imagine he does quite a lot of things that do warrant an apology. Like throwing his 10mo sister on the ground in a head-lock. Emptying an entire packet of oats onto the carpet. Taking my entire precious vinyl collection out of their record sleeves.

    The one thing is he very good as saying is ‘I love you’. And he can look me straight in the eye. Of course I then forgive him everything 🙂

    Always love reading your posts Annie xo

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  20. Cinda says:

    When I say I’m sorry I really do mean it but for others it can be the hardest thing to say. Saying “I’m sorry” and showing it with actions are the best way to see if they really mean it.

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