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I’m Sorry

I remember the first time I apologized.

I was almost five years old, living in Yakima, Washington. Linda was a sweet blonde girl who lived across the street. I spent a lot of time playing at her house. Eric was my “little boyfriend,” and together we were trouble on training wheels. One fine summer day Linda and some of her friends had made neat little mud pies (remember those?) and set them out to dry on the curb in front of her house. Eric and I, for reasons I cannot remember, decided those mud pies looked too good to live. While Linda was off in the back yard, we destroyed her careful work.

It was a terrible thing to do, but I was an arrogant little girl and didn’t understand the whole “sorry” thing. It took more than a day, but finally my mother managed to force me to walk over to that house across the street, ring the bell, and mumble to Linda that I was sorry about ruining her mud pies. I was crying. All at once I understood what it was to be ashamed. I had done something wrong, and for that, I had learned the important lesson of how to say sorry.

Surprisingly, I did it right the first time. For the record, here’s how you say you’re sorry:

  1. Say: “I’m sorry for ___________.”
  2. Be specific about your transgression. Saying you’re sorry for “whatever you did” doesn’t work.
  3. Do not use the word “but” or make any reference to what the other person did. This is about you being sorry, not about blaming someone else for being hurt.
  4. Keep it simple. See #1.

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