This I Believe

Audrey - San Francisco, California
Entered on March 3, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in the power of “sorry.”

Like many cliché romantic break-ups, the one I endured with my first love was melodramatic, replete with the same teariness that French movies are made of. He had, the evening before, broken my heart in a series of drunken actions that he had no recollection of the next morning.

As we broke up out at the port of San Francisco, raining, windy, he couldn’t tell me that he was “sorry”—“sorry” for publicly telling me that he no longer loved me; sorry for pushing me around in an inebriated haze in front of his friends, in front of strangers. Somewhere in the background, I could hear the accordions from our French movie soundtrack.

The power of “sorry” is underrated. As of late, Senator and presidential candidate hopeful Hillary Clinton has come under fire for her inability to say “sorry” that she voted for the Iraq war. For some curious reason, being “sorry” for anything has managed to escape the political lexicon of our current administration. We all know what that’s done for them.

Perhaps it’s all an issue of pride. To say “sorry” is to admit guilt. To apologize to your constituents, your ex-girlfriend, your would-be supporters appears weak in ego. It even shows that you are (gasp) infallible.

I disagree. To say “sorry” isn’t a reflection of weakness but of a humble strength that everyone has but all too often, fails to exercise. When I started my hunt for an agent, I started reading “Getting to Yes,” a book on negotiations. One chapter emphasizes the importance of taking the emotions out of a negotiating situation. Still, if emotions do run high, the authors write, “An apology may be one of the least costly and most rewarding investments you can make.” It’s amazing to me that even a book about navigating power-play logistics testifies to the power of the phrase “I’m sorry for (blank).”

Why is it so hard for us to say that we’re sorry? Many of us readily say it at the smaller things in life—we’re “sorry” for bumping into a stranger as we walk out the door. But those same words are much harder to choke out in situations founded in prideful beliefs of our own infallibility and that of our actions, like when you break someone’s heart or vote for an unjust war. Not that the two are on the same level, but you know what I mean.

I believe in the power of “sorry.” I believe that it overcomes the pride or ignorance that pushed us into a faulty decision, or an action that caused someone else pain. An apology isn’t elaborate. That’s why it’s so powerful. One needs the gravitas and eloquence of a used car salesman to be able to give one. I don’t think I’m entitled to an apology from my ex-boyfriend; I gave up hope on that awhile ago. Maybe he truly wasn’t sorry. Sometimes, though, I think it’d be reassuring that at one point, he wasn’t just a figment from a romance that happened a lifetime ago, and that if he ever were to say, “I’m sorry for that night,” I would feel just a little bit free.