Written by: Khadeja
It was a Friday afternoon in the midst of rush hour madness. I was walking as fast as I could to catch my ride (which is the story of my life basically), an absolute struggle as anyone who uses public transport can appreciate. I was trying to weave through the crowds and caught myself using a word slightly out of context. I said “sorry” about 10 times a minute to fellow commuters. But was I truly sorry? Or was it just a poor choice of words on my part?
I am all for good manners–my mother did an amazing job, and her lessons were reinforced by Mr. Rogers and his comrades–but as I mulled over the situation, I started questioning the intention behind it. I wanted to get where I needed as quickly as possible without running people over, but why couldn’t I just say “excuse me” or “pardon me”? The answer quickly came to me: one word is much faster to say than a whole phrase. Speed is the adjective of our technological age, and sometimes it just feels like we are getting carried by a wave of wireless energy rather than mindfully choosing steps that we take. We all use shortcuts with apps or life hacks–and yes, I am a huge fan of productivity. But when it harms human interactions, is it really worth the few seconds saved?
According to the Oxford dictionary, one of the definitions of the word sorry is a “feeling regret or penitence.” Did I feel regret about rushing and weaving through people? Not really. I just wanted to make everyone aware of my presence so they weren’t left in the cloud of smoke generated by me whizzing by. When I really thought about it, I concluded that the word doesn’t carry weight anymore. It is such a difficult word to use when in its proper context. It reminds me of when I used to babysit my cousins; getting a child to say “I’m sorry” when they have done something wrong is like pulling teeth! Children are pure beings, and they naturally are not willing to say things that they don’t mean (unlike us adults, who have to factor in social decorum and pleasantries).
On the other end of the spectrum, we use sorry as a way to deflect ownership of our actions. “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but x, y, z” which is like giving a slap in the face. No one enjoys being on the receiving end of that sentence!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could go back to a time when words actually meant something concrete? When each word was selected carefully to ensure that your intention gets across instead of just using them as fillers? Let’s strive to live up to these ideals and say “sorry” when we really mean it!