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Sorry Not Sorry: What It Really Means To Apologize

sor·ry adjective \ˈsär-ē, ˈsȯr-\

: feeling sorrow or regret

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the prime definition of sorry is to feel sorrow or regret. The unfortunate reality is that more often than not, we use the word sorry as a means to excuse ourselves from wrongdoing. How many times have you said “sorry” when you really didn’t feel any sorrow or regret for your actions? As children, we are taught manners; to say please when we want something, to say thank you when we receive something, and to say sorry when we’ve upset someone.

Apologizing is more than just good manners. To say you’re sorry means that you recognize you have hurt someone or something, and you genuinely feel bad and/or regretful for doing so. Furthermore, saying you’re sorry means you will make an effort to not do the same hurtful act again. Sorry isn’t meant to be casual, it’s meant to be honest.

The phrase “sorry not sorry” is really interesting, because despite it’s casual and blatant negating, it’s actually very honest. “Sorry not sorry” is used when you say you’re sorry with all of it’s truthful purpose, and follow it with a clear “not sorry” implying that you only said sorry in the first place as a means to be polite and follow a social norm. The phrase actually reinforces the true definition of the word.

The next time you issue an apology (for whatever reason that may be) think about what you are really saying, and consider what that truly means for yourself and the person you are apologizing to.

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1 Response »

  1. Either the phrase has multiple meanings, or it’s morphed. I use it differently.

    Both sorries mean regret. The prior is I regret being the source of your pain or discomfort. The latter negation is I don’t regret my action itself, as in, I would do it again.

    An example would be:

    “Hey coach, you said 10 laps, but you waved us on an extra lap.”

    “Oh, I lose track when counting. I wasn’t punishing you, and it fits the goal of building stamina. Sorry not sorry.”

    I realize my example is a third definition. Sorry, I caused you discomfort by a mistake I don’t plan on repeating. But no, I’m not sorry about giving extra pain for extra muscles.

    Darn. That brings up a third definition. I’m sorry for short term pain, I’m not sorry about long time gain. Think of the nurse giving a vaccination. “Sorry not sorry” means I regret giving you pain, but not so much that I regret doing this.


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