When is the last time you had to forgive someone for hurting you or offending you in some way? Did your forgiveness come as a response to their sincerity? Or was it an exasperated response to a person whose "sorries" are plentiful and often meaningless?
I've learned a lot about the word "sorry" in my life and how empty it can often be. Looking back at my friendships and relationships it saddens me to think about how many times I've had to carry the "burden" of forgiveness knowing it wouldn't be accompanied by a person's changed behavior. It's even worse when you come to expect empty apologies from people who feel entitled to your forgiveness: parents, close friends, other family members, and partners.
I recently had to say goodbye to a friend of almost a decade and it was easily one of the most painful experiences of my life. It was a tough decision that came as a result of a million "I'm sorry's" with no real changed behavior. Do I miss my friend? Of course. But this was something I had to do to protect myself and affirm my boundaries. Continuing to accept apologies while also fully expecting to be hurt again was causing me even more pain. Despite not wanting to lose them, I cut contact because I knew I couldn't expect their actions to change.
Too many people have the idea that the word sorry is enough, regardless of whether or not remorse is attached. "I said I'm sorry" is supposed to mean something to the person who has been hurt. We're supposed to be willing to forgive in an instant. We're supposed to feel instantly renewed from the pain we felt just moments (or years) before. Words are beautiful - but words without actions are empty.
If you hurt someone your remorse should go beyond just apologizing for the pain you've caused. You should also aim to avoid repeating the behaviors that hurt them in the first place. If your initial actions weren't intentional the corrective actions should be. And if, like me, you're a person who is often willing to forgive this is my challenge to you:
Stop accepting apologies that aren't accompanied by changed behavior
No one owes you forgiveness; whether you work for it or not. Forgiveness is entirely up to the person who has been hurt. Still, it says so much more about you if you work consciously to remedy whatever actions caused someone pain to begin with. On the opposite end, you are doing yourself a disservice by essentially rewarding those who hurt or offend you by not asserting your expectations. If you hurt me, I expect you to do better. I expect you not to do it again. I expect you to change or alter the language or behavior that hurt me in the first place.
If you're sorry, I expect you to be sorry enough to change.