About a year ago, my son started calling me a “quirky little girl.” He thinks some of my at-home conventions are, well, quirky, and he’s not afraid to tell me so: I like the light switches to point down when the lights are off; plates should be stacked in the dishwasher and in the cupboard with the stripe pattern aligned; socks go in the sock drawer rather than crammed in wherever they might fit. While I’ll admit that some of my idiosyncracies are just that, there are others of greater import sprinkled among them.

Take the phrase “Sorry!” for example. That particular form of apology has been banned from my house. Oh, the word itself is valuable and certainly has its place, but without any sort of ownership ascribed to it, “sorry” sinks to the status of platitude.

Think about it. How often do you say “sorry” when you brush by someone in a store aisle? When you want to interrupt someone’s conversation to ask a question? When you drop something that makes a loud noise in a quiet room? When you pull in front of someone and cut it a bit too close? When you use someone’s pencil you mistook for your own? I could go on listing these benign infractions, but you get the point. Sure, you experience a pang of regret or embarrassment that prompts you to expel a quick “sorry” from your lips, but how does that compare to a real offense? Are you really sorry?

We bandy that word about so often that I’m just not comfortable using the same platitudinous expression when I’ve really offended or hurt someone. I have a hard time believing it carries the same import in these vastly different situations. To me, “sorry” carries the same weight as “how are you?” It fills polite space, and we throw it around casually. Of course I use it myself, but when I need to apologize for a more personal offense (which unfortunately happens all too often), I make sure I take ownership of it and say “I’m sorry.” I insist that my kids do the same and have since they could talk.

Try it sometime. “Sorry” is pretty easy to say, but “I’m sorry” doesn’t come out quite as smoothly. It’s more personal, and it acknowledges ownership of the infraction at hand. It tells the receiver that I am personally taking responsibility for whatever offense I’ve committed. Call me a quirky little girl if you like, but I’m not sorry for this one.

%d bloggers like this: