The Value of I'm Sorry

"I'm sorry." More often than not, they are the first words spoken when a mistake is made and when an error of judgement occurs. Yet, what value do they really have?

Being a full-time home educator, and being with my children on a daily basis (notably now also during what would for many be the usual daily working/schooling hours), I am very privy to the ins and outs of relationship dynamics between my children, as well as how they go about their interactions with others.

As we journey the homeschooling journey, we are engaging together in those aspects of teaching and developing their social and inter-personal relationship skills that are all important life skills; alongside the usual and typically taught academic areas of study. This has recently got me really thinking about the value we place around saying sorry.

"I'm sorry."

We have all had some experience with these very words. Whether we were brought up to speak them out, (preferably quickly, was the typical emphasis also!) when we ourselves transgressed. Or, we have been at the receiving end of them. But what do they in fact achieve? What value does saying, " I'm sorry," truly have? It has been something that I have been thinking about lately. 

"I'm sorry."

They are words that seem to float around occasionally, as part of inter-personal interactions. They are used to appease, to hopefully voice to the recipient something of an acknowledgement of our guilt, our self-knowledge of having done wrong. Yet what does saying "I'm sorry" really achieve?

Have we pacified our children, by bringing them up to respond with "I'm sorry," when they transgress? Have we provided them with a false sense of manufactured ease to be able to step away from responsibility and accountability, by instructing them to say, "I'm sorry," each time they fault?

Have we watered down an awareness of the importance of making amends, of self-correcting, of putting that which was dis-placed back in place?

Has the use of the word sorry, aided our sense of guilt becoming the major primary focus; rather than our need to put right the wrong we set in place?

As the one at the receiving end, how often are we left feeling dissatisfied? How often are we left with the full outcome of the mistake and error, to deal with it in fact ourselves?

At times it can well seem that the tables are turned, and suddenly the wrong-doer is now the one seeking to have their feelings soothed. There can be that sense that to not accept their voiced sorry-ness as all that is completely required to put the wrong right again, will show a lack of social grace, or even good character on our part.

"I'm sorry." It acknowledges the wrong-doer's position in the experience had; that of wrong-doer. It is expected to serve as an acknowledgement of guilt. Yet, how many times does the word sorry actually make amends? It doesn't.

Words cannot make actual amends. Actions made amends. Actions create correction. Until actions take place, the words "I'm sorry," are a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. In themselves, they simply do not achieve anything, with regard to constructive restoration and the righting of a wrong carried out.

Do we as parents place the emphasis far more on an expression of guilt, by drumming in to our children the need to apologise, rather than putting right that which was wrongly done?

Have we created the situation where the feeling of guilt is supposed to be at such a level, that our children are in fact to be guided and directed by guilt in their decision making, rather than their sense of right and wrong, when it comes to instructing them in life skills?

Have we endeavoured to make guilt the big monster that will prod them into behaving? 

We may well have fallen very short by teaching generations upon generations of children to apologise, and not to see the necessary value in amendment, the need for active responsibility, and for literally participating in helping assist and restore that which was created as a result of their error.

These are thoughts I have been challenged by recently, and they have got me really thinking about what it means to guide our children in their inter-personal interactions with others. We all want our children to communicate well, and have positive inter-personal skills in place when socialising with others - so perhaps we need to really think through what are the real consequences of what we are teaching them, that little bit more.                                                                                         

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