Some time ago, I said to a friend walking through a trial, “I’m sorry.”
He replied, “What are you sorry for? This isn’t your fault!”
I explained that I meant that I was “sorrowful.” And I was. The situation he faced was suffering, and it gave me sorrow to know what he experienced.
We should have sorrow when we wrong another, but grief isn’t restricted to confessions of moral wrong. Moreover, admitting sadness does not admit fault.
We often train children to “say sorry” when they have wronged another. This is good—we should both feel and express grief when we hurt, deceive, deprive, or wrong another. But “I’m sorry” is also insufficient.
The one wronged must know that the wrong-doer feels remorse. But it is also essential for both parties that the wrong-doer understands and acknowledges the wrongness of the wrong. We need to say and hear, “I sinned” or something equivalent.
In my personal life, I’m trying to use “I’m sorry” for what it is—an expression of sorrow regardless of moral culpability. We need that. We need to feel sorrow over our neighbor’s pain. We need words to express that. “I’m sorry” is a short, accurate, and beautiful way to express sorrow to one in pain.
I’m also striving to be intentional in my confessions of guilt. When I’m guilty of sinful actions against another, I seek to say, “I sinned.” “I did wrong against you.” “My behavior was wrong, and it hurt you.” or “My words were wicked, and I regret them.” or “My actions were evil and inexcusable.”
Will you join me?
In the next post (I Sinned ≠ I Repent), we will consider why even expressions of grief and guilt are not sufficient when it comes to repentance.