by Dr Gonzo
On a support groups site, I saw so many saying, "I'm sorry for..." to help, but does it?
|Why is it when someone tells us of some misfortune or tragedy that has befallen them, we feel the need to say we are sorry?
“I'm sorry that happened to you.”
What motivates us to do this?
Saying sorry, is in general, an expression of our own personal regret at doing something we shouldn't have. We feel sorry for and regret the hurt we have caused, wishing we had done things differently, and so, expressing our remorse.
To me, this is the true meaning and use of the word, 'sorry', but there is another type of sorry, and it is one I am seeing used more and more.
Why has it become so prevalent in recent times? Especially when we personally have done nothing to contribute to the pain that person is feeling.
Is it empathy? But what are words to a person, unless followed up by support, or even actions, that may help? To do more than just say how sorry we are, and to actually show them, would to me, be a better way. Perhaps we could, instead of only saying, I'm sorry for what you are going through, ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
Perhaps there are underlying reasons we feel the need to say we are sorry for what they are going through.
So what, if anything, could we possibly be getting from saying we are sorry? Because no matter how empathetic or kind we believe we are, there will always be some payoff for us in any exchange.
And if this is true, who gets more from the exchange, the person who offers the apology, or the one who receives it?
Is it even an apology...or could it be pity?
I feel sorry FOR you...compared to...I'm sorry for what you are going through.
I'm sure no one wants to hear the former, and yet, how can the person receiving the words know for sure which one it is?
Most of these exchanges are done online, which may make it difficult to do much more than express our empathy by saying how sorry we are, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words and would leave no doubt as to the sentiment.
But what can we do? There is plenty we CAN do, but it's much easier to just express our regret at the situation the person finds themselves in...and then move on.
We likely won't know this person, and with so little spare time we have to commit...along with so many others who are also suffering, added to the fact, it's impossible to help every single person.
All valid points...and it's not for anyone to judge when a person says they are sorry, especially when they do so with genuine care. The point I'm trying to make is, with so much of this going on, we risk losing the meaning and sentiment of one of the most powerful words in the English language.
When someone tells us of their plight and the urge to say we are sorry is held back and internalised, will this make any real difference to the person who is suffering?
Does telling someone, we are sorry that happened to them, provide any benefit, and if so, what is that benefit?
Perhaps it is comforting to know someone understands and cares about what has befallen them, but in my opinion, how much comfort a few words can bring, depends very much on the sentiment behind the words, rather than the words themselves.
I understand that when faced with someone else's misfortune, the feeling is we should show them empathy, care, and if we can, understanding, but if we are genuinely concerned, we should be fully aware and understand the reasons why we feel the need to say these things.
Granted, most people are saying sorry to be helpful and show they care, but doing this without thought, or because it has become 'the thing to do', may be misguided. Another reason we may feel the need to say how sorry we are, is that we feel helpless to do much else.
In my opinion, the overuse of saying sorry to those we HAVEN'T wronged achieves little, taking a very powerful word, and on the whole, abusing it to the point where it becomes powerless.
For example, if a person has had some misfortune befall them, and is a part of a large online group, such as what happens on support group sites, I question how many times they will hear how sorry we are they are going through whatever that is (I think we all know the difference between someone who has lost a child, compared to someone who has broken a fingernail) before those words become inept and almost meaningless to them, from hearing it time and time again.
This is especially true when on a thread, where it can be seen how many times the word sorry has been used, and to what benefit we think adding another sorry does for that person...in which case, it can only be speculated that it may be more for our own benefit.
And considering there are other ways to show how we feel...ways that might take a little more thought and effort, but will carry so much more meaning and may actually be helpful to the person we are talking to.
You may think I am nitpicking (and perhaps I am overreacting to something that is basically harmless), or I lack empathy, but if we say something on a public forum, we need to be accountable for those words, and in my opinion, the overuse of the word sorry causes the meaning behind the word to become at best impudent...and at worst, is actually being done for reasons other than what on the surface, it is purported to be...helping someone who is in pain...and is possibly being done on a subconscious level, more for our own benefit, rather than for the person we are talking with.
Many people don't realise it is the subconscious mind that runs our lives and motivates us when making major emotional and psychological decisions, and we are, by and large, just passengers along for the ride.
We can override the subconscious, but if we are not aware of these underlying motives, driven by our subconscious brain in an effort to avoid and not repeat the causes of emotional pain, that is not likely.
When it comes to our subconscious, it doesn't concern itself with the day to day boring stuff, but when dealing with matters of the heart or other heavy emotions, it is, without doubt, the voice of authority we listen to in our minds.
There are times when saying how sorry we are about someone else's situation is absolutely required, and I am not saying we shouldn't ever use it because it can be of great assistance, but in my opinion, to say this in every case to everyone, or if the person has been told over and over how sorry we are, or is done without any thought about what it can do to help, is not the best way to show the genuine sentiment we feel.
I can't tell anyone when is, or is not, the time to say how sorry they are, and, as much as I don't like to say it like this, it is to a degree a judgement that must be made by each and every one of us...otherwise, we water it down, to the point where it essentially loses its power altogether.
Who deserves that genuine care? We all do...but we only have a finite amount to give, unless it is only given as lip service. And for myself, I would rather hold some back for when it is REALLY needed, rather than handing it out without any thought or consideration of what exactly is behind the words.