Think of one word you have overused for most of your life. Mine is easy; it’s “Sorry”. “Sorry [I almost walked into you].”
“Sorry [you misunderstood me].”
“Sorry [I cut you off in traffic].”
“Sorry [I didn’t even think of how that would make you feel].”
“Sorry [for my blatant disregard for your feelings].
“Sorry [that I was going to do what I was going to do regardless of what you said].”
A Need for New Vocabulary
I know I’m not the only one who overuses this particular word. I hear it everywhere I go. I’ve had many conversations with friends about how this word has just become filler. I HATE that I say it so much, and am making an effort to change that. For those awkward social moments, there are many other options I’m choosing to use these days: “Excuse me” or “Let me rephrase”, for example.
But how about those other situations. Those situations where “sorry just doesn’t cut it”. When the person affected by your actions doesn’t want to hear “Sorry”, they want something to change. They want you to see your part. Moreover, they’d like some dignity back. I’ve spent a lot of my life learning about this and it hasn’t been an easy lesson.
Sorry Fixes Everything, Right?
When I was growing up, I remember saying “sorry” often, to everyone around me, especially to my parents. The most common usage of the word came in instances where I acted in an appalling manner in order to get what I wanted. Or when I did something I was instructed not to do. Basically, I was a manipulator (and let’s be honest, I still can be). Sorry is easy to say and I’ve always felt like it does the job. However, what crushed me every time and helped me realize there might be something wrong with my logic on the word was when my dad looked at me with tired eyes and said “Jess, sorry just doesn’t cut it.” Eventually, as I got older, it changed to “I’m tired of your ‘sorrys'”.
When he said those lines, I was completely baffled. In my mind, sorry covers everything. I continued to run through life, and the lives of those close to me, like a tornado ripping through a small town. Of course, I felt bad for my actions at times and that’s why I believed “sorry” (and sometimes more heartfelt words came along with it) was important to say. I’d say what the person wanted to hear, I’d feel less guilty, and now we both feel better, right? Win-win. What else do you want from me? While I’m sure my dad explained what he meant by it back then, it took me many years to learn fully understand and “hear” the truth. To fully understand why “sorry just doesn’t cut it.”
Stop Apologizing and Change!
What I now understand is that my dad (and others) aren’t looking for me to wreak havoc and then just say “sorry”. What they want to see is some change. Clearly, I knew I’d done wrong or hurt them, but the next day, week or month I’d be doing it again. These people in my life wanted to see me change. They longed for me to show I cared for them through my actions. At the time, I wanted that same thing, I just wasn’t capable of it.
It wasn’t until many years had past and I was well into my 20s when my dear friend helped me see, in black and white, what I’d done and continued to do. That in-the-moment guilt I had always felt, which compelled me to say “sorry”, changed. I felt sadness and a deeper remorse than I’d ever experience. I never wanted to hurt people in that way again. Seeing what they wanted from me, I just wanted to give that to them. Unfortunately, it was too late for many friends. They’d grown tired and decided to cut their losses. I did my best to make things right with those who would allow it, but for those who wouldn’t, I moved forward doing my best to honor them by being a different human being.
Where Do I Go From Here?
I still use “sorry” too much. Usually it’s in those awkward social moments, you know the ones I’m talking about, but I cringe each time. Also, I’ll be the first to admit, I still use the word in those moments when all I really need to do is change my behavior and I could avoid the need for the word all together. The person affected by this instance the most is my sweet husband.
Today I know “sorry doesn’t cut it”. Each time I use it, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, I eventually take a look at my part and bring it before God. I ask for help to change. I’m over being the tornado. My heart is open to being a new woman. I’ve learned such a hard lesson that can haunt me if I let it, but instead, I choose to remember “sorry doesn’t cut it” and continue to grow when each opportunity presents itself.