Going wrong is an event, not an identity.
It’s hard to say sorry sometimes isn’t it?
But, if we want our children to be humble enough to apologise when they’ve gone wrong they’ve got to see it modelled somewhere. And we can’t rely on their peer groups for that.
One parent said to me that they worry that the word ‘sorry’ is undermining, they’ll lose authority.
I can understand that. When we're apologising for the way we've corrected them, we can feel as though the point we were trying to make gets washed away with the apology. However, the truth is that we can be humble yet remain empowered. Empowered doesn’t mean bossy, it has strength, gentleness, authority and freedom.
An empowered person doesn’t find it hard to say sorry because messing up or going wrong is an event, not an identity.
If you make a mess it doesn't mean you're a messy person
If you drop something you’re not clumsy
If you feel stressed you’re not stressy
Your identity doesn’t need to be hijacked when you make a mistake.
If we can be big enough to make a humble apology our children will learn that this is a home where you can make mistakes and not lose face.
One thing a humble apology never has is an explanation. When our oldest was about four I attempted a humble apology. It began like this “I’m sorry but….”
He quickly retorted that a ‘sorry butt’ was a ‘sore bottom.’ That was me told! He was right though. In the words of Benjamin Franklin “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
Another way to ruin an apology is using the word 'if'. This is a politician's apology. "I'm sorry if......
...I offended you
...you took offence
...you didn't like the way I spoke to you
...you see this differently.
There's no responsibility in any of those either.
On the other hand “I’m sorry that…...” is the beginning of healing.
“I’m sorry that I raised my voice."
"I’m sorry that I was late today."
"I’m sorry that I forgot to write a note to your teacher.”
So tempting to add “But…I’ve had a crazy day.” Restrain yourself. It’s better to add something that shows you take responsibility.
The best word to follow sorry is "that"
“I’m sorry that I raised my voice, it was wrong of me to take my anger out on you."
I’m sorry that I was late today, I realise that’s left you less time to play."
I’m sorry I forgot to write that note to your teacher, I know that felt important to you.”
"That'" re-connects you with them.
If we appologise easily and often they will distinguish between feeling sorry and saying sorry or sorrrreeeeeyyy!
Sorry can be simple. It connects, it heals, it empowers. It allows a person to bring peace without losing identity.