I know I am guilty of apologizing and saying “sorry” more often than I should. It started off as a polite impulse, instead of “thank you” or “you’re welcome”. “I’m sorry” also became a sort of rehearsed pleasantry. I used it whenever I did anything wrong, or I might have inconvenienced anyone. Then I used it for anytime I might feel bad or experience an emotion of sadness or stress for someone else. Things started to get out of control, and mixed with self-doubt and obligation, “sorry” became on odd placeholder for misplaced self-shame and insecurities. I would say it almost impulsively, creating greater tensions than already existed.
Lena Dunham, the unabashed modern director who often speaks out for women and mental illness, recently wrote an article on LinkedIn about the problems with today’s apologies. Saying you are sorry out of a habit or obligation decreases the value of true apologies. She mentioned how it can be used to mask true emotions, or in place of explaining needs and complex situations. Lena said, “saying sorry serves as a sort of cork, making sure my emotions are contained and packaged neatly. Sorry is the wrapping paper AND the bow.”
“Sorry” does not fix problems; it usually creates more than it’s worth. Lena suggests not using the word for an entire day, to force yourself to articulate and explain yourself. She also says that putting less of an emphasis on the passing “sorry” and focusing on genuine apologies when necessary is much more meaningful in the long run.
Below is the definition of sorry. Seeing the true definition helps me see why and how I have misused it in the past.
- Word Origin
adjective, sorrier, sorriest.
- feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.:
to be sorry to leave one's friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.
- regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic:
a sorry situation; to come to a sorry end.
- sorrowful, grieved, or sad:
Was she sorry when her brother died?
- associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy; dismal.
- wretched, poor, useless, or pitiful:
a sorry horse.