The other day I explained to a postal clerk at the post office that a box I had mailed arrived empty. She curtly said, “There’s nothing you can do about it.” Period. Pursuing the matter, I spoke to an employee on the phone. Her first words were “I’m so sorry this happened to you.” What a difference! She couldn’t help me much either, but her sympathetic apology made me feel better! Words are powerful. For good reason our parents taught us to say “I’m sorry” as well as “Please” and “Thank you.”
Practicing courtesy is a way to follow Jesus’ commandment to love one another. In particular, saying “I’m sorry” is the Christian thing to do. In the movie The Love Story a character says, “Love means never having to say ‘I’m sorry.'” That just isn’t true. Love means saying “I’m sorry.” These two words bring about peace in the world by bringing peace to the person who hears them. It also lifts a weight from the heart of a person who has hurt someone.
Jesus never had to apologize to anyone. But he was so sorry about the sins of Jerusalem that he wept. He was so sorry for lepers that he healed them. He was so sorry for the sad state we were in due to original sin that he gave up his life for us. Knowing that someone identifies with us in our plight makes it more bearable. So we continue to say things like “I’m sorry for your loss” when someone suffers the death of a loved one. We say, “I’m sorry I inconvenienced you” and “I’m sorry to tell you this news.”
When has someone’s sympathetic words soothed you?