Why does sorry seem to be the hardest word?

Have I just started a blog piece by quoting Elton John? Yes. Not only is it a great song, but it just seemed too relatable to kickstart this piece. The 1976 tune is about apologies (well duh) or lack thereof and is centred around a failing relationship and the difficulty he has in apologising in order to move forward. Perhaps the relationship can’t be saved and saying sorry wouldn’t help, or perhaps he’s just as stubborn as they come, but either way, an apology was not on the cards.

The song got me thinking about the word ‘sorry’, the times I’ve expected it and not received it, and the times I’ve had to give one myself. I pondered why it is just so bloomin’ hard to echo those two simple words and why some people are better at owning it than others. So join me on my overthinking adventure to pursue this conundrum.

The ‘apology’ is perhaps one of the most powerful ways of resolving confrontation and the word ‘sorry’ dates back to the English language spoken during the Anglo-Saxon period. Back then, sorry was connected to the word ‘sarig’ which was Old English to mean ‘full of‘ sorrow’, and therefore expressed to show deep regret. Nowadays of course, you’ll be lucky if you get a ‘soz’ from your brother for eating all your M&Ms but I’m not sure our Anglo-Saxon ancestors saw that one coming.

For us modern-day folk, the word ‘sorry’ can be used for a multitude of things and not necessarily apologising for a mistake – from hitting someone with your shopping bags to lamenting about the rain ruining your pal’s wedding day. It’s also clear that even if one says  the word ‘sorry’, they might not necessarily mean it – ‘well I’m sorry but that’s not my problem’, he announced, looking and sounding the absolute opposite of the word. As the years move forward, the term ‘sorry’ sounds less meaningful, and a lot of people I’ve encountered seem to have an inability to say it.

Never apologize, mister, it’s a sign of weakness”

‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’, 1949

This was quoted in the 1949 film ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’, by John Wayne, who played Captain Nathan Brittles – and I couldn’t agree less. I feel like it takes a huge amount of internal strength to own up to your mistakes and apologise. Sadly, it’s not as simple as it looks and there’s a wealth of reasons why. For some, apologising causes intense feelings of shame that they’re unable to deal with. For others, saying sorry can feel like a massive blow to their already incredibly low self-esteem. Sometimes, it’s easy for people to say distance yourself, you don’t need that kind of energy in your life. But, it’s also wise to remember that beneath their hard shell, there is a vulnerable person that needs help. Practising acceptance of this can lead to a better relationship with that person, or sometimes it’s better to rid yourself of people with stubborn energy – whatever works for you I guess. 

I’ve been in an interesting dilemma with it all the past few years. They say as you get older, your circle of friends get smaller, and as much I’ve heard this, I never thought it would really be true. I often feel like at the ripe age of 29 years old, I’m too old for confrontation, and yet, with those that can’t apologise, confrontation always seems to be around the corner. Is that enough to break up a friendship? Are you too sensitive? Or do you just say to yourself, ‘oh that’s just classic ***’, let them be’ and carry on as normal? I’m not sure, but I guess I’ll figure it out on my life journey.

What about you all? Have you had friends or family that struggle to say sorry? Do you find it difficult? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

3 Replies to “Why does sorry seem to be the hardest word?”

  1. Ems, I can definitely relate to this one, especially with family and friends. I concur with all of the above that you have mentioned in relation to why people can’t say sorry, ego, pride, shame, fear etc. etc. I believe the people who can say sorry are those who are will, and have gone on an inner journey to work through where they went wrong, and feel empowered to say sorry without feeling scared. But that inner journey has to take place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Will it always find it bizarre when people can’t, but they don’t need to be part of your life journey I guess


      1. There is a certain person who I never received a sorry from over an incident which involved her own problems. There has never been a sorry, because over the years I have stepped back and realised that, despite their bluff and bluster, they were too “small and weak” a person to say sorry, because, perhaps, they never believed they were in the wrong. Somewhere along the line there has to be acceptance from the “bigger” person. Acceptance that that other person has to go on their own journey, and that journey has to be of their own timing. Acceptance is the beginning of healing.


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