Saying “I’m sorry.”
When you are a parent and your child experiences emotional pain, you also experience emotional pain. To help your child survive this pain you will do whatever it takes. If a child is crushed because they are disappointed that they did not make a team you provide comfort and support. If your child is dealing with bullies at school you help build your child’s self-esteem and contact the school in hopes to getting some help stopping these things from occurring. The list goes on and on- if you are a parent you know exactly what I am talking about.
People with empathy can understand a person when they are having emotional (or physical) pain. A person with empathy says to the person in pain- “I’m sorry you are going through this,” “I’m so sorry you are experiences pain right now, thank you for sharing this with me.”
When one of my children was experiencing intense emotional pain from years of bullying and lack of school support. I did what any parent would do- get him help outside of school and email the right people at the school asking for help. Help didn’t come for over 24 hours. When I finally got a call regarding my cry for help I stated, “Thank you so much for calling he was so sad that no one was able to meet with him at school yesterday.” To that comment the professional, who had counseling training, became very defensive and started yelling at me that she didn’t see him yesterday when she received the email because she had other things she has to do. She was reacting this way because she knew that my cry for help was required by law to be addressed and she didn’t do her job so she wanted to attack me. As I cried on the phone she asked me, “what did you want me to do?” (in a harsh and nasty tone btw). I told her hearing “I’m sorry you are going through this, would be helpful” she screamed again that she isn’t going to say she is sorry because she didn’t DO anything wrong.
This was one of the biggest ah-ha moments for me. As a trained therapist and highly empathetic person I always reach out to others in pain. I have no problem saying “I’m sorry you are experiencing something bad.” I was shocked that a person with a counseling background doesn’t understand the importance of empathy and assumes that “I’m sorry” means she did something wrong.
By the way, I had to be the “counselor” in the phone call with the school person and defuse the situation by letting them know “I’m sorry you are so overwhelmed by you job.” I said this in a very supportive concerning tone and it worked- she felt understood and she stopped screaming at me. Although, as a parent I would have appreciated not having to be the professional in this phone call, but remember what I said at the beginning- us parents do whatever it takes to help our children!
Today, on Spiritual Sunday, I ask you to reflect on your own empathy and ability to say you are sorry. Are you strong enough to be vulnerable enough to say “I’m sorry.” Do you understand the difference between “I’m sorry – I’ve done something wrong” and “I’m sorry you are experiencing this?” Empathy is what makes relationships excel and become stronger. It makes the world a better place but you cannot be empathetic if you are not able to say “I’m sorry.”
I’m able to say “I’m sorry” because I am comfortable with myself. I have empathy for others. I can see the world through others eyes and really understand what it is like to live in the shoes of another person.
I know I’ve posted this before but here’s a quick video of Brene Brown explaining empathy.
So please today, reach out to others and show empathy. If someone shares that they are in pain then tell them in a supportive tone (no sarcasm please!) “I’m so sorry you feel this way, thank you for sharing” or “I’m so sorry you have to experience (whatever they are experiencing).”