I’m Sorry For Not Being Sorry

Rusty - March 3, 2008

My wife infuriates me sometimes. She never lets me get away with rude, snarky or condescending remarks/expressions towards her. Not only does she end the conversation, but she has the nerve to not even consider my feelings and why I might say such a thing. I mean, doesn’t she get it that I’m only trying to help?

My altruism aside, I recognize that in order to repair the damage in such cases I usually need to apologize. (And one thing I learned LONG ago is that you can’t apologize for someone else’s actions, for example, saying, “I’m sorry you got offended” is NOT an apology, it’s an insult.) Considering this, this morning, I realized something about apologies that I never had before. I was thinking about a hypothetical argument that we *may* have had last night and the kind of comment I *might* have made after which she walked past me and promptly went to bed. Hypothetically. I ran the future apology through my head and it went something like this:

Rusty: I’m sorry for what I said last night.
Sara: You should be.
Rusty: Fine, if you’re going to be like that then I’m NOT sorry.

You see, in that scenario I obviously was never sorry in the first place, I was only apologizing to appease her, not because I truly felt sorry for my actions. That lead me to think about the fact that true sorrow shouldn’t hinge on how the other person receives it, only on your sincere sorrow. We always talk about how forgiveness shouldn’t hinge on whether or not the other person is sorry. Well, it appears that being sorry shouldn’t hinge on whether or not the other person forgives you. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

So this morning I considered my hypothetical remarks and felt true sorrow for having said them. Later I spoke with my wife and the actual…I mean, hypothetical conversation went something like this:

Rusty: I’m sorry for what I said last night.
Sara: You should be.
**long pause**
Sara: Rusty, I was kidding. I’m sorry too.

And we lived happily ever after.


  1. I’m sorry it took you so long to figure all that out

    Comment by Bret — March 3, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

  2. I’m sorry you’re such an idiot.

    “Well, it appears that being sorry shouldn’t hinge on whether or not the other person forgives you.”

    This is actually pretty profound. Thanks, Rusty.

    Comment by Steve Evans — March 3, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

  3. Good stuff.

    To the list of actions and emotions that shouldn’t hinge on whether or not the other person forgives you I would add: all actions and emotions.

    Comment by Eric Russell — March 3, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

  4. Rusty, I agree with #2. That quote [Well, it appears that being sorry shouldn’t hinge on whether or not the other person forgives you.] made me think of something my father once told me:

    I hate to iron. But hubby doesn’t mind ironing his thousands of shirts and pants. This is good. It works for us. He usually just irons things as he needs them –so there’s always a nice pile by the ironing board. I’m okay with this; I’d take a pile of clean clothes on the floor to hours of ironing any day. But one day, I decided I wanted to do something really nice for him. So I spent about four hours ironing everything in the pile.

    While I was working, I happened to have a nice little conversation with my parents on the phone. I mentioned what I was doing and quipped, “I’m so bad at this, he’ll probably not be happy I did it and have to do them all over again” to which my wise father responded: “Well, if he does, you can’t be mad at him, because then what you’re doing really isn’t a service.”

    Profound, indeed.

    Comment by Cheryl — March 3, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  5. Thanks Rusty, I’ll have to remember this next time I have to say I’m sorry… hypothetically of course.

    And I like the idea of visualizing conversations. That way if you mess up and say something incredibly stupid, your spouse never hears it! Brilliant!

    Comment by Mike L. — March 3, 2008 @ 9:08 pm

  6. Something I’ve learned in the last 13 years is that sometimes it’s just better to say sorry even if you’re not wrong. It can break down any barriers the two of you have just built up and allow you to continue discussing the topic calmly. There’s nothing eternally significant about being right all the time.

    Comment by Kim Siever — March 4, 2008 @ 5:37 am

  7. Holy Ghost to woman, in a recent Ensign article: “Do you want to be right, or to save your marriage?”

    Comment by Bookslinger — March 4, 2008 @ 9:26 am

  8. Hey Rosty, te perdistes otra vez, disculpa que sea abusivo al escribirte, mira te queria preguntar si sabes algo de David Anderson, dejame saber please. see you

    Comment by Walter Sierra — March 4, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  9. Over the years I have found that a difficult lesson to learn. You’re absolutely right, but it’s hard to get my mind and heart into a position to say I’m sorry, when I know dog gone well I’m right.

    So I’ve learned to be truly sorry for how I said it, for getting her upset, for the feeling I’ve created. Usually we can then open up to a more loving way to discuss or understand the situation.

    I’m still learning….but I am getting better about sincerely appologizing. There was a time when I was always right and it was too bad someone else would take offense at what I said….it was their problem.

    Comment by Don — March 4, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  10. Holy Ghost to woman, in a recent Ensign article: “Do you want to be right, or to save your marriage?”

    I choose being right over happy as a matter of principle.

    Comment by Peter LLC — March 4, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  11. Peter, I’m thinking you must be single, cause that’s the only way that philosophy could work.

    Nice work Rusty, odd how that lesson never stays learned. You have to keep learning it and keep reminding yourself. Especially those of us who make a living by being paid to constantly argue as if we were always right. As occupational hazards go, that one is bourne inordinately by our families.

    Comment by MCQ — March 10, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  12. There was a time when I was always right.

    Ah, the good old days. I think I was 30 before I realized it was possible that I could be wrong about something.

    I think though, that if you now were to total up all the times I have apologized to my wife, they would outnumber the times she has apologized to me by a factor of 100. Why is that? Am I that much more wrong, or is something else going on here?

    Comment by MCQ — March 10, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

  13. I have only been married for about 4 months now, and my wife gets hurt by some of the things that I say. I don’t mean to hurt her feelings, but I just don’t have a good way with words when I speak them. I have found that writing my thoughts out on a piece of paper or on the computer helps me get what I want to say without causing any problems for our marrige! But, now I always have a few thousand pieces of crumpled up paper laying by my desk!
    Also, whenever she says somthing that makes me upset, I just let it fall off and I don’t take it seriously. This way I have complete control over my emotions and can still be the strong one. This works great and it makes us feel closer to each other by our mutual conversations. My wife and I made a pact with one another. No matter how upset we may feel torwards each other, we will always let one another hold the other. You can’t stay angry when you are being held, or are holding your spouse. Try this and you will see what I mean!

    Comment by Thomas — June 3, 2008 @ 1:42 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI