Sorry is an easy place to be. And fairly meaningless in many cases.
It seems society is caught up in hearing the words, “I’m sorry,” regardless of whether it is heartfelt or sincere. All we need is the appearance of remorse. Whether it is genuine is inconsequential.
Often the admittance of guilt for some indiscretion followed by a tearful apology seems to erase all ill will. Is this why we don’t hold people accountable for their actions? We forget the confession and expressions of contrition only come because they were caught.
The latest is, of course, Lance Armstrong. He’s not the most noteworthy, high-ranked or influential liar and cheater but he has had the most adamant and longest-running denial when it comes to prominent personalities. So one must wonder why now, after 10 or so years of defiance, he is admitting to the charges waged against him.
I suppose he may be trying to salvage an endorsement or two. Maybe he’s trying to repair his image so he can get a job or begin a new career. I hear he’s trying to get into the triathlon business. Whatever the reason, he’s banking on forgiveness.
Forgiveness is also an easy place to be. At least for society in general. We love to bring ‘em down, absolve ‘em, then built ‘em back up. I guess we feel we can then take credit for who they are or who they become. We are so eager to forgive we accept almost anything.
It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I don’t know who coined this phrase but it is so true and a lot of folks ascribe to it. Just think how many times you have heard ‘I’m sorry,’ from your kids.
Over and over again, right? And so many times for the same infraction. The same for mates, friends, co-workers, partners, etc.
There are some essential components for an act of regret to actually mean something. First you have to commit to not doing it again. You can’t just promise because promises are becoming as meaningless as apologies. You need a sincere commitment followed by direct action to change the behaviour.
Secondly, you have to not just acknowledge but understand how your actions have affected others. You’ve got to know the pain, shame and upset you have caused those around you by your actions. If you can do that then you can hopefully be sorry, not just because you got caught, to get everyone off your back or make yourself look good.
Thirdly, you must realize and accept why the action was unacceptable. That takes some insight into the feelings of others, empathy for others, a willingness to put other’s needs ahead of your own, an emotional connection, a truly caring approach to others. You can’t just say what you have to say to those you have hurt by you behaviour just to shut them up, mollify them and calm them down.
We say ‘I’m sorry,’ pretty easily but most often it’s just words and words are cheap. Many of the words we throw around, like ‘I’m sorry, I promise, I love you,’ etc., are getting so cheap they are bordering on worthless.
What happened to ‘say what you mean and mean what you say?’ We need to do a better job of taking responsible for our actions and holding others accountable for theirs.