RE-Defined: SORRY

What would you do if you knocked over a glass picture frame at a business establishment?

I watched as a woman did this very thing at a restaurant. She was standing too close to the desk, applying her makeup. Her elbow moved ever so lightly, causing the frame to fall. Glass shattered everywhere. She continued dabbing her lips, and then said, “I’m sorry.”

Her friend, who was standing about ten feet away near the door shouted, “I can’t take you nowhere,” and then the two middle-aged women skittered off laughing and joking, like teenage besties.

I pretended to scroll my phone, while watching the short, black-haired woman behind the desk. She hadn’t said a word…until they left.

Then, she called a coworker over in her native language. That person swept up the shards, while the other woman continued speaking. The only thing I understood was “I’m sooorrry,” said mockingly, interspersed over and over, coupled with shoulder shrugs and eye rolls.

I assumed we were thinking the same thing. The perpetrator could’ve done more. But what? Had I knocked over a glass frame, I would’ve offered to pay for it, or at least sounded more remorseful. Perhaps that’s what matters: how you apologize and what you do afterwards.

This reminded me of the time my 89-year-old great aunt found out my cousin had stored her antique furniture outside on the balcony. My great aunt had transitioned to a nursing community, which was a quarter of the space she’d ever lived in her entire life. She was upset that the Chicago wind, cold, and snow would ruin the wood. She was confused that someone would even disregard her belongings in the first place. Anger overcame her, and she began crying. I hate to be cliché, but you really could hear a pin drop on the carpet. No one had ever, in their lives, seen her cry actual tears.

sorryI nudged my cousin and whispered, “Why don’t you say, I’m sorry?”

“Well, I’m sorry then,” she said.

This is no exaggeration. I really believe it was the most lackluster apology I’d ever witnessed. My aunt demanded to be driven back to her new home, and the rest is Christmas fairy tale history. Everyone has their own rendition of what happened and why.

It seems we’ve gotten so used to repeating certain phrases that we forget actions should accompany them. If I apologize, then how do you know that I’m really sorry? In the case of the broken frame, I do believe the lady should’ve offered the business owner something, even if it was to help clean up. As far as my great aunt goes, I think she wanted what most of us want when our feelings are hurt, empathy. So, I’d like to suggest this. I’m sorry is just the beginning of an apology. What you do afterwards is the actual reconciliation of regret.

Let me know what you think. Have you ever had to apologize for your behavior? Have you ever accepted someone’s apology? Does it matter how the person says it?

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74 thoughts on “RE-Defined: SORRY

  1. First, great post. Very relevant today. I’ve thought a lot about this because I tend to err on the other side- my dear ones say I apologize too much! Be that as it may, I have come to the sad conclusion that the reluctant/ nonchalant apologiser is amoral. In her world she is supreme, entitled etc. She doesn’t know she is wrong and won’t believe you if you try to tell her that. To the amoral, all the qualities we believe are necessary to life – empathy, sensitivity, consideration for others – are a sign of our stupidity. Sigh!
    God save us!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What is wrong with people? First of all, if I had knocked down the mirror, I would have been mortified. Would I have apologized? Yes. Would it have been sincere? You bet. I’m cringing, just imagining knocking it down.

    I’m sorry about the distressed caused to your great aunt. How awful. My aunt is trying to people to take her furniture and knick-knacks because she doesn’t want them discarded after she moves on; they meant something to her and wants them to mean something to others (and perhaps make other people think of her when they’re around the items).

    For the record, I apologize when I spill something at a restaurant, or break something. I don’t want people to think I’m careless with their property, because I’m not.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, this was one of the oddest things I’d witnessed. I just knew she was going to do something else…like ask for a broom at least. I think that’s it…”being careless with someone’s property” can be seen as disrespectful.

      As far as my great aunt, I think what you’ve described with your aunt is similar. A lot of times we’re attached to things and want others to be just as attached, but they often don’t hold the same meaning. That’s no reason to leave it on the back porch, mind you, but I do think you’ve raised an issue that many of us will face. We’ve accumulated stuff and will have to part with it as best we can when the time comes.

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  3. I have definitely said I’m sorry with a lot more expression than these examples. I was in a store one day with my partner and I was looking at a top that wa up high. I backed up a step to see it better and banged into someone. I immediately turned and so ‘oh, I’m so sorry’. She glared at me and walked away. I looked at my partner and asked if I had sounded sincere. He said I had. I got a little angry then- how could I know she was standing so close behind me! I let it go- or did I- here I am remembering it again lol

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Apologies are an important expression of our humanity. We all makes mistakes, break things by accident, and say hurtful things at one time or another. Thinking about how our behavior impacts others and making sincere apologies and gestures of amends is a special human quality that computers,doorknobs, breakable dishes, and spillable drinks don’t have!
    Another great post for thought and discussion, Kathy😊.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this thoughtful post, Kathy. I think of a sincere apology as such a beautiful gift. And many people are incapable of it.
    The part that is hard, is finding forgiveness. Demanding an apology leads to insincere responses like the example you gave. Your aunt cried and was simply expressing how she felt. So sad that she didn’t get the gift of an apology. Perhaps she will discover forgiveness to relieve her pain, when she is able.
    Even the shopkeeper with humor sounded forgiving.
    So I guess there are the two sides here. And apologies probably go back to our childhood and relate to having empathy for another person. Doing the kindest thing, comes from someone blessed with love in their heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Judy! Because we each co-create relationships and everything surrounding them, I think it’s good to think about the other person’s part in the apology as well. I suppose that’s also why I posed the question. Sometimes we want to hear an apology (and it is forced or taught), and then we’re mad because of what we heard/how it sounded. An important part of the apology process is also accepting it, forgiving the act and moving forward. Thanks especially for that last sentence; I agree.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hell, yes! It matters how one apologizes, and it matters than one should try to make right the wrong one has done: if you can’t afford to pay for something you’ve broken, then offer service or time, but set that wrong straight, damn it. That’s what my great grandmother taught me, and that’s what I do, and I expect others to try to do the same.
    Thank you so much for this post!
    Very best,
    Shira

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I absolutely agree with you about the action after the apology. If you really believe there was something done “by accident,” and that something hurt someone’s feelings, then afterwards, you should do something different to demonstrate sincerity.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A very important and relevant topic. I still haven’t figured out, if half-hearted apologies are just bad manners or lack of empathy; either way they are appalling.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The tone and sincerity of an apology is key…if it isn’t meant, it’s better not to say anything – it just adds insult to injury. I feel sorry for the shopkeepers; not only out of pocket but having to put up with such juvenile and upsetting behaviour.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Watched something similar at a restaurant last week. Lady knocked over a huge cup of water and just looked at it. I jumped up to grab the cup, but there was a huge mess on the floor. She shrugged and walked off. I assumed she was going to get napkins (this was a fast food restaurant) but instead she pointed out the mess to one of the people working there, telling them they needed to clean it up before someone fell. GRRRRR….

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  10. Sincerity is the most important thing, and actions show sincerity. Sometimes we don’t know how what we’ve done has hurt others, but our lack of intent to hurt doesn’t mean our apology should be any less heartfelt.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I hate when people say I’m sorry instead of saying “excuse me”. The two are not interchangeable. And I hate when people say “sorry” instead of “I’m sorry for _________”. I feel that an apology along with an explanation for what exactly you’re sorry about is clutch. There’s a big difference there. And if we’re face to face, eye contact during the apology helps too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hadn’t even thought of that Kelley, but you’re right…the two are not synonymous at all. Being explicit might be a better way to stop lackluster apologies too…I like the idea of saying, “I’m sorry for…whatever it is.” That way there’s not confusion.

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  12. Great post! It’s true that we say certain phrases so much that they lose their real meaning, such as “I’m sorry”. I know I’ve been guilty of giving a half-ass “I’m sorry” myself. This post gave me something to think about.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Kathy, you are so right. These sorrys are not even good enough to start a proper expression of deeper apology. Such empty words are thrown like confetti in the wind.
    Some action to show how much you want to right your mistake must follow.

    As to the precious furniture being stored in rain and snow. That must have hurt deeper as they were trampling on her what held the ladies memories.
    Miriam

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Confetti in the wind,” indeed Miriam! I do think that’s what my great aunt was thinking about as she sat there. I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that’s what I would’ve been thinking about.

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  14. Both of the apologies in your examples sound childlike. The kind you say because a parent or teacher says you have to so you can go play. A real apology has weight to it and a hint of reparation and/or promise to behave differently going forward. A sincere apology is priceless and has helped me quickly repair my own wrongdoings and move forward. Bottom line: if you don’t mean it, don’t say it and try to mean it more. It makes you better😀

    Liked by 6 people

  15. First, great post. Next, my uncle told me something I will never forget, people want to know that you care, you love them, and that you are sorry/apology (sincerely). I believe people are insensitive to other people’s feelings and don’t have true love for the next. True love will cause someone to actually seek how they hurt or offended another, and seek to fix it with a genuine apology or “I’m sorry.” That women didn’t think about the owner or place herself in their situation, or her Sorry would have been genuine.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I worked days as a museum security guard for 8 years before I transferred to nights last year. I’ve seen similar situations in the museum. People do not go to museums for art appreciation. Some of them come to antagonize the guards by seeing how close they can get to the art and possibly inflict damage upon great artworks. Again a sense of entitlement and superiority. The visitors curse at the guards, threaten us and in some cases physically attack museum security guards and over the years I’ve seen many artworks get damaged from ill behaved visitors. Nope. Folks just don’t care.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Entitlement and superiority seem to be accurate reasons why someone would antagonize a security guard for no reason. I can’t for the life of me imagine that someone would come to a museum JUST to see what kind of damage they can get away with.

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      1. Hard to believe but true. When I worked days I saw and experienced some of everything.
        Museums attract nutcases. The Jesus Lady comes to mind. This elderly white woman claimed that she was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Not only did she touch 500 year old artworks but she harassed the other visitors. The guards constantly had to call the supervisor. She was a living nightmare. That’s just one horror story. There’s more.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s mild. Worst case scenario is getting hit or sexually harassed by perverts. Many up and quit. I had to deal with the problems since there’s no jobs for folks in my age group. At least now I work nights but sometimes still get the jungle fever fools.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Yes I’ve said and done things wrong and I went back and apologized and tried to make it up to the person. In this day and age people are extremely rude with a sense of entitlement. The words sorry no longer mean anything. However it the same situation happened in their house or place of business they would be offended. They would also want to be forgiven. When I was growing up most places had a break it you bought it policy. And that person would be banned from returning. However you can’t instill empathy in people I don’t care how much it is written or spoken of. Some people just do not have the capacity for empathy, sympathy or a sense of responsibility. They just don’t care. Also since those two women suffered no repercussions they will just do it again somewhere else.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. So that’s the thing that kills me…you’re right that if someone came in that lady’s house (I described) and knocked over a glass, she would probably be cussing and fussing forever! Forgot about the “you break it you buy it policy.” Some things we used to do should be brought back.

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  18. Of COURSE it matters – to me and to anyone else – whether the person is related to you, part of your friendship circle, or total strangers in a restaurant. When you injure another (or their positions), at the very least, a sincere apology is appropriate from ANYONE older than 3 years old.

    I wrote a longer article on this topic and HOW to apologize earlier [Relationship Repair when Apologies are Due] – because far too many people don’t really get that it’s not the words themselves, it’s the vibration of sincerity behind the words that make it an actual apology.

    I’m with Lara in my reaction to the action you describe.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 4 people

    1. In an ideal society people would have a sense of remorse but having worked with the public for years as a museum guard I learned early on that the majority of people have a sense of entitlement plus they know that they will get away with their crimes. Empathy cannot be taught or learned. You ever have it or you don’t and most folks in this day and age don’t. When I worked days I was constantly having to tell grown adults not to touch the art. Some came in the museum just to see how much they could get away with. Stupidity reigns supreme. We live in a society that glorifies bullying, nastiness and being mean. There are no consequences for such evil actions so those actions will continue.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. That word escaped me. Entitlement! I unknowingly broke my best friends laptop screen, when my speaker landed on it after it fell from my bed. I felt so terrible, even though she was like it was fine but I kept apologising and offered to pay for it. I know her very well and already knew she wouldn’t be angry and she won’t accept me fixing it cause her dad would fix it, I know this because sadly this is the second laptop of hers I’m breaking (always accidentally, in my defence she always keeps it in unsafe places) Anyways it didn’t mean that my body language was nonchalant, even if she’s my best friend and we have a deep level of connection.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. You went lower with the age lol I was thinking six and below 🙂 I’ll have to read the article about how to apologize because I have a failed apology myself, so I’ll have to see what went wrong in my own circumstances.

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  19. It definitely means different things depending on how the person says “I’m sorry”. In the cases of your cousin and the lady in the restaurant, it was obvious they weren’t sincere. Had they really cared about the other person’s feelings, it would have come across in the inflection in their voices.

    Unfortunately people are so used to saying the words without the meaning behind them. We are conditioned from a young age to apologize for every little infraction that sometimes the real meaning gets lost.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Heeey Lisa! So, yes, I also agree that it’s the inflection in one’s voice. That is one way that you can definitely tell if someone “means” it or not. I’m glad you mentioned that part about being conditioned from a young age. Maybe that’s the key…we need to begin young and demonstrate what sincere apologies sound like.

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  20. That was so rude oh my God. Saying sorry has to be told with genuine feelings, if not it becomes worse. People like that don’t think about how their actions affect others, and so they do and say as they please. I feel sad reading this.

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