Saying sorry isn’t enough when we only say the words.
Sometimes I think I’ve spent my life saying “I’m sorry” for things I did or failed to do. A forgotten commitment, words spoken harshly or hastily, or anxious worry – all of these I am prone to do. When I’m sincere, folks are willing to accept my apology of “I’m sorry.” They also, hopefully, are able to see that my intent is to remember, to be kind, and to be peaceful, instead of worrisome.
A person who is truly sorry tries to do better. He takes steps to help him remember or to make a deliberate choice of choosing better words. That is when we know a person is truly sorry.
Returning the wheelbarrow
One day a neighbor helped himself to someone’s wheelbarrow. He needed it to complete a task, so he took it to his house. Having a wheelbarrow came in handy, so he just kept it and kept using it. We could say he stole the wheelbarrow. When we take something that is not ours without permission or the right to take it, and do not intend to return it, that’s stealing. Whether or not the neighbor intended to return it or not, he didn’t. He kept what was not his, and that’s when saying “sorry” isn’t enough.
A few weeks later the neighbor saw his stolen wheelbarrow and confronted the man. He replied, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t going to keep it, but it’s been so useful to me.”
Naturally, one would assume he would return the wheelbarrow since it was not his. He didn’t. He laid claim to the wheelbarrow that belonged to someone else. Using those two words, “I’m sorry” didn’t mean a thing because if he was truly sorry, he’d return the wheelbarrow. That’s when saying sorry isn’t enough.
Restitution means we recognize saying sorry isn’t enough
We make it right. We correct the mistake, and right the wrong. It’s easy to see how wrong the wheelbarrow thief was. Of course he should return the wheelbarrow that wasn’t his. Of course, making restitution was necessary if he was indeed sorry.
The trouble is, we take wheelbarrows from folks. Oh, it might not be an actual wheelbarrow, but we’re no different from the neighbor when we diminish a person’s character by spreading lies or half-truths. When we withdraw from others in anger, we’re stealing their wheelbarrow. When we assume stories we hear without validating facts, we’re stealing a wheelbarrow. Apologizing for participating in gossip isn’t enough. We must restore the reputation we tarnished. If we are not willing to do that, then saying sorry isn’t enough.
When we’re truly sorry, we are willing to do what it takes. Instead of leaving the wheelbarrow in the yard for the neighbor to find on his own, we return it to him in person. We correct the lies, return the damaged goods, and offer to compensate for what was lost. We share what is really true. Returning the wheelbarrow in person proves we regret our actions and our choices because we realize that saying I’m sorry isn’t enough.