Unlike admitting that we are wrong, lots of us say “I’m sorry”. In fact, it is so often said, that it has been stripped of it’s meaning. “I’m sorry” is different than saying “I was wrong”. “I was wrong” is something we say when we examine ourselves and admit that we have made an incorrect or bad decision, or chosen damaging or false words. “I’m sorry” is what we say when we pause to consider that our wrongs can hurt others. It’s not easy to say we are sorry (and truly mean it). When we say that we are sorry, we are admitting that I am not the only one impacted by my words and actions, and that’s a scary admission. Having the courage and insight to say, “I’m sorry” reminds us of three important things:
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You are not responsible for others. They alone can make their decisions and choose their paths in life. It’s dangerous to believe that you are responsible for others. You become an enabler, and weaken the very people you are hoping to help. It’s equally disastrous to fail to recognize that you are responsible to others. Being responsible to others means that we accept that we do not live in a bubble. Our decisions and words impact others for good or for bad. How we live has far reaching implications, and taking time to tell someone that we are sorry for something we have done, honors this fact, and respects that person.
Every decision/word matters
Words are free and you can throw them out however you want, but they come with a great cost. Words can encourage others or cut them off at the knees. Your actions can give others hope or lead them to give up. Every word you say matters. Every decision you make has consequences. There are thousands of people whose lives have been upended by one stray tweet, comment, or post. The news is filled with stories of leaders who must step down from their positions of authority because of one poorly made decision. Choose your words and decisions carefully. Mistakes will happen, but when you pause to make deliberate choices you are less likely to be make catastrophic decisions.
Confession has incredible power to heal
People have an amazing capacity to forgive, and because of that an incredible capacity to heal. I’ve worked with countless couples and families that have healed from deep and devastating pain, and regrouped to become stronger. When you have the courage to admit that you have hurt someone, you give them an incredible gift. They are now free to forgive if they choose, and then to heal. They get to choose what to do next, but owning whatever damage you’ve done is liberating regardless of how they choose to receive it.
If you need to tell someone you are sorry, call them and do it today. Better yet, buy them a coffee or lunch and do it face to face. We all make mistakes and will inevitably hurt others, but if we have the courage to own it, we can impact them for good as well.