How many times have those lines been used on us or have we used them on our kids?
I think the word sorry has become a habit. We use it too fast and too casually. We do something we shouldn’t have, and we instinctively say “I’m sorry”. We see that we hurt or insulted someone, we say “I’m sorry.” Our kids do things we think are wrong and we make them say “I’m sorry.”
The question is how often do we really think about what we have done? Out of all the times that we say I’m sorry, how many of those times do we really mean it? How many times is sorry just a reflex instead of an action based on thought and contemplation?
In Judaism, this time of the year is a time of reflection. A week and a half ago was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Fast Day of Atonement & Repentance. The High Holidays are a time to reflect on your actions of the past year and ask for forgiveness not only from God but also from people you have wronged. (On a side note, according to Judaism, God only forgives us for wrongs committed against Him. Wrongs committed between people need forgiveness from the person you have wronged before God can forgive you.)
From a young age I was taught the principles of true repentance, and it’s not just asking for forgiveness and saying you’re sorry.
So what is true repentance you ask?
In Hebrew the word for repentance is Teshuva which literally means to return. Teshuva, repentance, has a number of stages.
- The person who has wronged first needs to realize that they have done something wrong. (Duh. I think that part is self-explanatory.)
- The next step is to think about your actions and to feel sincere remorse. This is where I think some of us go awry. We have been conditioned to say I’m sorry and often act automatically when we see we have hurt someone. I know that I have to work hard to remember to think about my actions and internalize what I have done wrong.
- At this point comes trying your best to repair the wrong you have done and to ask for forgiveness from the person you have wronged.
What makes repentance complete?
- Having intent and resolving not to repeat that same action in the future.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I do know for myself that if true repentance requires all of the above steps, then there are only a handful of times when I say I am sorry that I truly mean it.
For me, personally, the hardest part is having the honest intention of not repeating the same action in the future. I know that for the most part I do not want to repeat actions that have brought about hurt. At the same time, I can’t honestly hand to heart say that when I apologize to someone that I intend to do everything in my power to prevent my action in the future. It’s too hard.
It’s kind of like exercising and dieting. You can have the best intentions, until you are faced with the choice. Stay in bed, or get dressed and go exercise. Eat the chocolate and have momentary pleasure or pass on the chocolate and lose weight and feel better.
Just because our intentions are good and something is the right choice we still mess up over and over again.
I am not saying that we should do away with manners and not say sorry at all. I am just wondering aloud whether we need to put more thoughts into our actions and our apologies.
Lately I have been feeling that sorry doesn’t mean a heck of a lot.
What do you think? When does sorry really mean something?
This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Susie Newday of Israel. You can find her positive thoughts on her blog, New Day, New Lesson.
Photo credit to the author.