04/11/2015 8:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

5 Situations Where The Word 'Sorry' Means Nothing


"Would 'sorry' have made any difference? Does it ever? It's just a word. One word against a thousand actions." -- Sarah Ockler, author

Look back at your own life and try to recall when you last felt sorry about something. When was the last time you said sorry? When was the last time someone said sorry to you?

Most of us say "sorry" when something we said or did, whether or not it was intentional, had negative outcomes or consequences. For some of us, saying sorry is never easy, whether or not we are at fault. For some, saying sorry comes very easily, while for others it depends on the circumstance -- we say sorry when we believe we are truly at fault or if we believe that an apology will help a critical or life-changing situation.

But, ultimately, the most important question is: how effective can a "sorry" be? Can a "sorry" make everything OK?

What if you've cheated those who trust you profoundly, whether in business or your personal life?

Can a sorry help regain the trust that was built over years?

What if a teacher imparts the wrong morals, values or lessons to students in the most impressionable years of their life?

Can a sorry undo the lifelong impact of these wrong lessons?

What if an adult physically abuses a child?

Can a sorry undo the physical, mental, and emotional scars that will stay with the child for a lifetime?

"Can a sorry undo the physical, mental, and emotional scars that will stay with [an abused] child for a lifetime?"

What of a case of domestic violence, with a partner or other family members ending up physically bruised and emotionally battered?

Can a sorry reverse the damage wrought in that moment?

What of people who misuse power, funds or resources for personal gain or indulgence?

Can a sorry undo the impact of the economic disparity that such behaviour leads to over time, and its impact on the minds of people?

What of doctors who don't do their job properly - it could range from misleading patients to making the wrong diagnosis to providing the wrong treatment or not intervening in a timely manner?

Can a sorry undo the impact of a doctor's misdeed-- be it a lifelong disability, death or even temporary inconvenience and pain of the patient and his or her loved ones?

What of organizations or institutions discriminating between individuals?

Can a sorry undo the deep mental and emotional agony that an individual went through as a consequence of public discrimination?

Can a sorry make any of the above OK?

The answer is NO -- simply because in some instances the words or deeds have created irreparable damage in someone's life. So, what are those situations in which a SORRY really not does help?

1. When your self-confidence is beaten

Self-confidence is one of the most important attributes in a person. It determines the course and choices in your life. If your self-confidence is undermined by another person's words or actions, it usually has a deep, long-lasting impact. It usually takes eons to regain self-confidence.

2. When your self-respect is diminished

Self-respect defines you in more ways than one -- in terms of how you view yourself, how you view the world, how the world views you and how the world reacts and responds to you. So if your self-respect is diminished in any way, it has a huge impact on your life. It takes a significant amount of time, conscious effort and environmental support, assurance and re-enforcement to revive your self-respect.

3. When one of your basic human emotions dies

When someone's words or deeds numb a basic human emotion (joy, anger, fear, etc.) in an individual, something dies within! And usually one reaches a stage where some things just do not matter anymore! In such scenarios, an apology has no meaning or relevance. It is usually very hard to revive such human emotions even over a lifetime.

4. When your dreams are shattered

We all have dreams that we want to realise. Dreams really help create "make believe worlds" for yourself that you hope to translate into reality. When your dreams are shattered, then your personal and precious "make believe world" (which in many instances was probably the only shining and guiding star of your life) is engulfed in darkness. And then no matter what anyone says or does, it does not really help. A sorry cannot restore a shattered dream.

"[P]ause before you say or do anything and ask yourself how you would feel if someone did or said it to you!"

5. When your hopes evaporate

The real world is filled with constraints, challenges, trials, and tribulations. If there's one thing that takes you through the many lows of life, it is your hope -- hope for good health, hope for wealth, hope for rainbows, hope for peace and harmony, hope for happiness, hope for lasting relationships, hope for fulfilling life experiences, hope for a better tomorrow. So if your hopes about yourself, life, future, people and society evaporate, then there's little meaning to life. And a sorry cannot bring back diffused hopes.

As I sign-off, I leave you with a thought -- Is it not better to try and ensure that you're never in a position where you have to say sorry for your words or behaviour? And one of the easiest ways to achieve this is to pause before you say or do anything and ask yourself how you would feel if someone did or said it to you!

Do you agree that a sorry cannot undo everything? Leave a comment to let me know

Edited and published from the author's blog here

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