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I'm sorry ... no, wait. I'm not.

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Posted: Monday, September 26, 2011 5:21 pm

I had an epiphany the other day and I think I need to talk about it a little bit. I noticed the overuse of the word "sorry," in our everyday conversation. I'm guilty of this, which is why I noticed it.

I think people say they're sorry when it's not appropriate to say so, and others mistake the reason for the use of the word.

Let me explain:

When I haven't heard what someone has said to me, I'll say "Sorry?" Which indicates that I haven't heard them and they need to repeat themselves. But I'm not sorry. I just need to hear the words again. It's nothing to apologize for. I guess it's more elegant and polite than saying "What?" But I've decided to simply say "Excuse me, can you repeat that?" Because, I'm pretty sure they were mumbling anyway.

People us the same word when they approach a stranger to ask for the time of day. "I'm sorry ... do you have the time?" Are you really sorry? Nope. It's not a huge deal for someone to check their watch and let you know the time. For all you know, you've made their day be allowing them to help out a stranger. Not a remorseful stranger. But a polite stranger who would say "Excuse me, do you have the time?"

Why, of course I do.

Then there's the belligerent, argumentative use of the word when people don't agree on something. "Well, I'm sorry if you don't like my shirt!"

When, in fact, I'm not particularly sorry if somebody doesn't like I'm wearing, or who I'm friends with, or what I listen to, or eat. I won't apologize for that stuff. If I've truly offended someone by any of these choices, then maybe I'll be sorry. But it would have to be a pretty big offense.

On the flip side of the coin is this often-repeated conversation: You offer condolences if someone is having a bad time, illness, whatever . . . "I'm sorry you're going through [whatever]" . . . because you actually feel sorrow for their burden. And they come up with the idiotic response "That's okay. It's not your fault."

Well! Good to know. I was ready to take complete responsibility for your disease or death in the family or whatever. I'm only offering comfort and a sympathetic ear. Not seeking redemption here.

"Sorry" is an overused term that is losing its meaning. A true apology for something in which you feel remorse is not an easy thing to do. When you put yourself out there, the kind thing for the apologee to do is accept by saying "Thank you," or ... not ... it's their call at this point. But once is enough. More than once and it loses its punch.

If you're in the mood, try and note how many times you hear the word "sorry" during a day or week. I'll bet that in more than one instance, the person saying it is not apologizing for anything - or not really sorry at all.

And if you think my use of the word "apologee" is incorrect, you're absolutely right.

But I'm not sorry.