Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Space For Redemption:

When "I'm Sorry!" Isn't Enough

Alston Park, Napa Valley, California, USA

January 6, 2018

"I'm sorry, so sorry, that I was such a fool." ... Brenda Lee

"I'm sorry I made you cry." ... Connie Francis

"If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I'd take back those words that hurt you and you'd stay." ... Cher
This essay, Space For Redemption: When "I'm Sorry!" Isn't Enough, is the companion piece to
  1. Base Nature
  2. Intimacy
  3. Be What You Are
  4. Cleaning Up My Messes
in that order.

It is also the eighth in an open group Conversations With A Friend:
  1. Privilege At Daybreak In The Battle Between Good And Evil
  2. Future Perfect
  3. This Is What It Means To Be!
  4. Empty Cup
  5. Conversation With A Friend: A Symphony Of Notes
  6. The Sound Of Your Voice
  7. Conversations With A Friend VII
  8. Space For Redemption: When "I'm Sorry!" Isn't Enough
  9. What Did You Do To Me?
  10. You Are Always With Me
in that order.

The ordinary view of what I accomplish when I apologize ie when I say "I'm sorry!", is I make whole, compensate for, fix, complete etc (it's a long, long list of the things I could do from which my apology could be compiled) those whom I wronged, disparaged, hurt, cheated, took advantage of etc (it's a long, long list of the things I could do for which my apology could be called).


In the interests of tightening up loose talk, we could say that saying "I'm sorry!" is not apologizing: saying "I'm sorry!" is saying "I'm sorry!".

Apologizing on the other hand, is a linguistic act. So apologizing is saying "I apologize!".

Speak both of them for yourself until the difference between "I'm sorry!" and "I apologize!" becomes clear.

With that now distinguished, I use the two interchangeably in this conversation.


When I say "I'm sorry!" to people, the ordinary view is it's something I do for them. The ordinary view is my apology for what I did, works if it lands in their  listening such that they're made whole, compensated for, fixed, completed etc. But there's also a non-altruistic view of what my apology should also accomplish: it should make what I did, OK with me  also. In other words, my "I'm sorry!" should cut both  ways: it should leave all of them (ie the perpetrat-ees) and  me (ie the perpetrat-or)  made whole, compensated for, fixed etc, and complete with what I did.

The truth however is especially in the latter regard, my "I'm sorry!" is often not enough. While the others may have accepted my "I'm sorry!" and forgiven me for what I did, in some notable cases I've not been able to forgive myself  for it. When I replay the movie of my life, there are scenes in it which should have been (but were never) discarded to the cutting-room floor, which make me cringe and leave me deeply disappointed with myself. This movie isn't a fantasy. It's a documentary  - and you can't rewrite history. Those scenes are up there on the silver screen for all and sundry to see. Sadly. Regrettably. There's no ambiguity whatsoever about what actions they depict. I did them. They happened. Really. They're ugly. And I've apologized for them. And the perpetratees have forgiven me for them. But I've not been able to forgive myself for them. They haunt me.

It occurs to me my "I'm sorry!" is appropriate to give to those I've wronged ... and yet  ... the bone-numbing truth is there's also an element of my "I'm sorry!" which I manipulate to try to get myself off  ... the  ... hook, you know? And I can tell  I'm not off the hook (even if others don't know it) because I've apologized, and yet I'm still not complete with what I did. There's no redemption. That's the litmus test.

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


from the verb redeem (RELIGION)
an occasion when someone is saved from evil, suffering

I ask Werner about it when the two of us are sitting across his desk from one another speaking animatedly, sipping cups of piping hot green tea. I share with him in minute, exquisite, excruciating detail, one particular incident about which, although I said "I'm sorry!" and was forgiven, I've been unable to get myself off the hook - which is to say it was an incident in which my "I'm sorry!" didn't work for me at worst, was inauthentic at best, and about which I was still left feeling guilty, ashamed, even mortified  with what I did. At this point sitting right here in front of him, I'm so frustrated the tears start flowing. It's like talking with him in the rain.

He's all warmth, smiling, total love, friendship, compassion, and dis-passionately reaching for then passing me a kleenex. Without missing a beat, he suggests I stand unflinchingly in the space of that it happened  ie in the space of that I did it ie the simple fact  that it happened, the simple fact that I did it - not my opinion  about what I did, not my feelings  about what I did, not my guilt  about what I did, not my value-judgement  about what I did, and oh God! especially not even all my pseudo-morality  about what I did. And if the simple fact that I did it is still too unconfrontable  for me to bear, then he suggests that I begin with ie that I at least ante up  with, that I was there in the room at the same time that it happened, yes? Man! It's hard to wriggle out of that  one. Playing dodgeball  is easier than this!

When I can stand unflinchingly in that it happened ie when I can just be  with that I did it, he suggests I simply tell the authentic truth: that what I did was not OK - just like that, without adding emotion, without embellishing, without manipulating, just the stone cold, flat-footed conscionable truth that what I did was not OK. Nothing else. No self-chastisement. No raising my voice. No self-berating. No emphasis. No nothing. Just that it was not OK. Period.

Instantly (instinctively, miraculously)  I get how different what he's suggesting is, than my "I'm sorry!". Interestingly enough, I notice that being with what I did (now that I can) was not OK, still doesn't get me off the hook. No, it's almost exactly the opposite: what it does, is it allows me to be with that I'm on  the hook, calmly. In being able to experience that I'm on the hook calmly, rather than thrashing around trying to get myself off the hook, redemption comes. I experience redemption. I'm redeemed. I lean back in my chair and exhale, catching sight of us in a mirror. It's stopped raining. A dark, dense fog has lifted. Years  have fallen from my face.

What's unavoidable for me, is his "What I did is not OK (end of story)" comes from such a good  place. It works better than my "I'm sorry! (for what I did)" - it works much  better. Really. But it's actually much more than much better: it's the source of ie it's the golden key that unlocks our long inaccessible space for redemption.

Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2018 through 2022 Permission