The look on a child’s face when you tell her to say “I’m sorry” says it all. It’s not fun. Not only is it somewhat humiliating to say those words, but it means admitting to something. I’m going to guess that we’re admitting to more than punching our brother in the arm or spilling milk on daddy’s papers.
I would venture to say that we’re even admitting to more than hurting someone’s feelings or not showing up on time. When we say “I’m sorry” we are admitting that we’re broken. It’s fairly easy to say that we’re not perfect. Actually that is quite a safe statement, that can be used as an excuse, a show of humility, or an attempt at empathy. It’s quite general and doesn’t make us squirm too much.
But when we say “I’m sorry” we’re admitting to how we are specifically imperfect. We really don’t have it all together. Our actions and choices hurt people, even people we love. And we wonder why children don’t like to say it. Why we don’t like to say it.
How many apologies have we received that went something like this, “I’m sorry, I just…” How many of those have we given? We want to qualify why we’re broken. What circumstances made us mess up. How it wasn’t really our fault.
Maybe it would do us good to examine how we’re broken. When we mess up to take a good hard look at our fears and simply say “I’m sorry”. And instead of wallowing in guilt and running from our shattered image, maybe we can learn to love specifically imperfect people. Including ourselves.