The Problem of ‘Sorry, Not Sorry’


By Steve Wickham



Apology is tested not so much in the act of saying sorry, but later, when contrition makes way for contrariness.

But true apology remains. Sorry remains sorry. And it never takes its opportunity to explain why it was justified in wrongdoing.

Sorry remains sorry, and it doesn’t change its mind. It doesn’t, at some point when it’s probed, say, ‘Now you’re being unfair… ’ (But the receiver of the apology better also be merciful).

As soon as someone who is apologizing says, ‘if’ or ‘but’ or ‘maybe if you’ their sorry becomes null and void. They make excuses when the person receiving the apology has their senses piqued for a sorrowful heart. And such a heart cannot be faked.

As time goes on, as the apology is believed, as the person apologizing is forgiven, their sorry needs to stay sorry. They cannot, having been through the full process to forgiveness, rescind that apology. The transaction is done, and they best keep moving forward. If they change the script, and that apology is retracted they’re a liar in this regard.

But more often than not it is the situation where the person apologizing realizes, ‘Hey, they require more from me than I’m prepared to own… ’ that causes the most problems. For the issues we’re apologizing for we need to be unequivocal. We therefore studiously avoid being drawn into extraneous matters that dilute the force of the sorry we’re saying.

More important than the actual apology is the heart behind it. When we go to say sorry, we had better take with us the heart that is sorry. Not ‘sorry for my bit, now what about you?’ Own your bit and stay there. Allow the other person their own reflection in their own time with no coercion.

The heart of apology beats strongest when we affirm and advocate for the person we wronged.

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By Steve Wickham