I want to speak on the ineffectiveness of “I’m sorry”. No really! Although we are taught to apologize, I don’t believe that I’m sorry fits the bill. Watching, Orange is the New Black, the original Netflix series about incarcerated women (If you have seen it, you understand it is a little odd but compelling. If you haven’t, just know I am going somewhere with this.) there is scene where the main character, Piper, unknowingly to her, insults the head of the kitchen with the genuinely honest remark of how horrible the food is (Season one, episode 1). I love this scene for it capture the truth of how most “insults” are not made intentionally, yet the impact of such is still hurt. So wouldn’t a sorry be effort to smooth things over? No. Big Red, the head of the kitchen, informs that although Piper goes out of her way to acknowledge her mistake and although Big Red has indeed received her gesture honestly, that it will not be enough. Rather, Piper is commanded to figure out another means of re-balancing things between them or she will be “starved out” of the kitchen. Eventually, Piper does succeeds by offering her service through the creation of a home remedy which addresses Big Red’s unspoken need of relieve from physical pain. What a beautiful illustration of a truly effective apologize. Of course, the acknowledgement that was voiced through the words of “I’m sorry” were a part of this, but they were not the totality because the words alone were not enough to balance the tension which existed between the individuals.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of countless times that I’m sorry was not enough. So much so that I use to say, “Rather than say I’m sorry simply don’t repeat the act again”. Yet that too wasn’t truly what I meant. What was needed was a corrective action or corrective experience to repair the imbalance between I and said person. This I truly believe is the key to healing conflict, disagreement and hurt that occurs within relationships. Restitution. Be it your Beloved companion, friend, child or coworker, how often do we truly seek or give voice to what will be the corrective action to repair emotional hurt for which we often seek resolution through an “apology”? I see it with my students. For they can say I’m sorry but then be involved in a fight next week. This provides evidence that the hurt has yet to truly be mended. That the two in question have yet to repair the energetic tear that is now present in their personal affairs. Everything is energy.
So if a conflict is present, then we can surmise that there is dissonance in the air and a true apology has to be one which repairs and even reinforces this break if true healing is to occur. So next time, don’t just look for the apology but look for the heartfelt gesture which will restore and repair the harmony that either your action or another has created within the sacred embrace. Namaste.
“I AM” Ms. Ayana Burnett, LCSW-C