“You’ll never be a good mother. You are to selfish,” my friend said. Using a slightly different voice. Her I am trying-to-imitate-my-mother-voice.
I was shocked. “She said that to you?”
“Many times,” she said, shaking her head at the memory.
I was speechless. Before me stood a good mother. A kind and considerate and most precious mother.
How could a mother say this repeatedly to her teen daughter? How could she predict her future in such an unkind way? What hurt those words must inflicted.
I know how those words would have wounded my fragile, wanting to please my mother, teen heart, had my mother said them to me. I also know that those words would probably resurface years later when I doubted my abilities as a mom.
I wanted to heal my friend. Take away her hurt. Stitch up her heart scars caused years ago by her mother’s callous words.
But I couldn’t.
All I could offer were words back in exchange for her gift of sharing her hurt. Words, and a hug.
“I am so sorry,” I said, squeezing her hands and looking into her eyes, “So sorry your mother said those hurtful and untrue words to you. No one deserves that kind of judgement. No one should be spoken to that way.”
The gift of words.
Words may seem small. But the gift they give can be big.
We all want to be seen. Heard. Acknowledged.
When our words acknowledge someone’s hurt, it lets them know they have been heard. It reminds them they did not deserve that treatment. healing for the person can begin to occur. Shame can be released.
It’s a gift we want to be given. And one we can give.
Words have power.
They can build up or wound.
They can create or destroy.
They can enslave or release.
They can calm or excite.
Words are one of the most powerful gifts we can give to those hurting.
How words can be the greatest gift.
When we tell someone “we are sorry,” it doesn’t right a wrong. It often doesn’t change a circumstance. But it does mean everything.
It means we recognize their pain. That we can share or identify with their pain. That we acknowledge their pain.
And when we do this, something profound can happen.
For both them and our relationship.
When I tell my child that I am sorry they are having a bad day, I am acknowledging him, his feelings, his circumstances. I am saying, I see you.
When I tell a friend, I am sorry for their loss, I am acknowledging their pain, the importance of the person they lost, the disruption their absence has caused. I am saying, I see you and your new reality filled with pain.
No, I did not cause my child’s bad day. Nor the death of my friend’s relative, but that doesn’t mean I am not sorry for what happened to them. Sorry that they are having to walk through this difficult time.
Accepting the gift of words.
Sometimes it is easier to comfort others and say, “I’m sorry,” than to hear “I am sorry.”
But if we are to heal the hurts in our own heart, dissolve the anger within our own veins, and stitch up our own bitterness, we need to accept these same words with open hands.
I remember my dad saying this to me sometimes, when I would be telling him a story laced with hurt.
“Theresa, I’m sorry you had to experience that.”
There were times I pushed the gift aside, made light of it.
“Oh, that’s okay.”
I didn’t stop to examine his gift. Or even acknowledge his gift.
I was probably embarrassed. He didn’t cause the hurt in my story. He was just a listening bystander to my story.
But, gradually I learned all I needed to do was say, “Thank you, dad.” Or, “Thanks for understanding.”
And his gift would begin to work. Slowly healing my heart.
Be generous with “I’m sorry.”
“I am sorry” cannot heal the person wholly, but it can begin the process of healing. These words can help the person see that they are not to blame. That they did not deserve what happened.
“I am sorry” lets them know they were heard.
It acknowledges them and that they matter.
It can help them see the situation differently.
And it can be the springboard for a more in-depth conversation. One where we ask them a question. Such as. “Tell me about it.” Or “How did that make you feel?”
Give the gift of empathy. Of “I’m sorry . . .” to others. And to yourself.
And you’ll be giving one of the best gifts you can give.
Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.
Join the Discussion: How has “I’m sorry” helped comfort or heal you?