Beware the Serial Sorry

It is important to say sorry if we have hurt someone or done something wrong. We are taking responsibility for our actions by doing so, admitting that we were wrong and trying to make amends. An apology implies all this. However sometimes people think that they can just say sorry to wipe the slate clean and then repeat the wrongdoing again and again.

You may be able to think of someone who is constantly hurting your feelings, taking no notice of your requests, ignoring your boundaries. If you confront them with their behaviour they apologise profusely, but then do exactly the same the next time. They take saying sorry as a cure-all to let them do whatever they want. Sorry as a way to get them out of trouble without too much effort.

Saying sorry doesn’t mean that you can walk all over someone once we’ve said it. If you have someone in your life who behaves in a way you don’t like, tell them so. They may not be aware of it. Give them a warning the second time they offend. The third time then you can drop them. Someone who persistently behaves inappropriately does not deserve a place in your life.


It is right to say sorry for any harm or hurt a person does. We are usually happy to accept an apology the first time. The second time we should be less understanding and warn the person what we will do if they repeat the action. The third time we should let them go, if not from our lives then at least from our trusted group of friends. If they show that they cannot learn to behave in an acceptable way, there may be a deeper problem involved.

You can’t always drop a person from your life that easily. If it is your boss or partner then it makes sense to get support to deal with the situation. Verbal, physical or mental abuse is out of line whoever the person is. If you are dealing with a situation this serious then you should seek the support of a professional counselor, or get legal advice.

How often is sorry acceptable to you for the same offence?


“The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology.” Red Auerbach

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