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What Does 'Sorry' Mean - Discussing True Repentance

Updated on May 3, 2013

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The Word 'Sorry'

Sorry is a word that we have all heard and used during our lifetime. I would say that, in my experience, I personally have heard the word 'sorry' a lot more than I have heard the phrase,'love you'. But just because it is said quite often does not mean that it is said because it is true. The word 'sorry' has become, what I call, an automatic word. It is a word that it said without thought about the meaning and as a result the power of the word, in most cases, is not realized.

Webster's Dictionary (1913) defines 'sorry' as: Grieved for the loss of some good; pained for some evil;feeling regret; - now generally used to express light grief or affliction, but formerly often used to express deeper feeling.

The fact that sorry was once used to express a deep feeling of regret but is now used to apologize for a light grief shows how the meaning of sorry has lessened considerably. It can even be further argued that sorry is used to dismiss a light grief and is not necessarily said because of regret.

Quote About The Word 'Sorry'

“Would 'sorry' have made any difference? Does it ever? It's just a word. One word against a thousand actions." Sara Ockler from Bittersweet

'Repentant Saint Peter' by Rembrandt
'Repentant Saint Peter' by Rembrandt | Source

An excerpt about repentance and salvation

Being Sorry Means To Repent

Words like 'remorse', 'regret', 'repentance' and 'sorrow' all sum up what the word 'sorry' means but most people do not realize, or choose to forget the fact ,that sorry actually means that you will never do it again or that you will at least try or strive to never do it again.

Sorry does not mean that you will do something to make up for the wrong you have committed because once a wrong is done it cannot be undone. However, because you are sorry, you do try to do good after and you flee from the way that led you to the wrong in the first place.

Let's say that you run over your little brother's bike with your car. The bike is destroyed and you are sorry. You buy him a new bike to replace the one he lost. Just because you have bought him a new bike does not mean the destruction of the old one did not happen and it does not erase the wrong that was done. It helps your brother to feel better after the wrong was done and it assures your brother that you have had a change of heart.

The fact that a wrong act cannot be undone is proven through Jesus Christ Himself. If wrong acts could be undone, then wouldn't it stand to reason that all of mankind's sin could be erased? No one would have to be punished if wrongs could be undone. Jesus had to take sin upon Himself because the wrongs (that is the sins of the world) had to be dealt with. His death was not a good deed to make people forget about sin. It was a sacrifice that was the only thing that could scrub clean the filth that is sin. However, because of His sacrifice we can now flee from sin and try to do good in order to please Him.

Why Isn't Sorry Good Enough For Me?

Have you ever been told sorry and you didn't feel like it was enough?

It is probably because the person showed no signs of being sorry. They simply said the words because it was expected of them but their behavior, that is the behavior that caused the wrong never stopped. The person never changed his/her actions.

Have you ever lied to yourself and pretended to forgive a person who said it even though you did not believe they meant it?

That is probably because you have heard all about how good forgiveness is for the soul and you want to be a forgiving person because you just know that holding a grudge just is not right. Instead of speaking to the person about your hurt you push it under the rug so people will think of you as a good person.

"And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Matthew 19:17 K.J.V.

Have you ever said sorry to someone and did not feel like it was enough?

This is probably because you truly are sorry and, because you know the way apologies are trivialized, you are not certain your message has gotten across and that the person has forgiven you. Many times people do not forgive because of the way the word sorry is bandied about. It is much harder to believe that an apology is sincere in this world today and as a result people are very jaded when they are apologized to. Perhaps this is why it is so hard for some to just 'Let it go'.

How Do I Deal With 'Sorry'?

The best way to deal with 'sorry' is to be honest about it.

When someone is apologizing and you do not feel as though they are being honest about it, you could tell them about it (which may just start an argument) or, if you do not believe them, you can extract yourself from the situation that caused the wrong so that you can ensure they never do that wrong to you again. This is not the same as holding a grudge because it does not involve hating a person or resenting them but simply stepping away from them.

When apologizing to someone, you can try your best to be sincere about it and demonstrate to the person your remorse by acting differently and being sensitive to their feelings. Perhaps through your actions others may begin to believe in the power of the word 'sorry'.



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    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi teaches,

      you are right, of course. We should communicate the fact that we feel the apology is insincere to the person apologizing otherwise the rift will never be healed and the relationship will begin to crumble. There are many friendships that have been destroyed because of lack of communication.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      I have had a few people say sorry but didn't really mean it. It is something we should express our beliefs about to them if we feel it is not sincere. Great reflection on this feeling. Blessings.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thanks Peggy,

      This Webster definition was from the 1913 edition, if you can believe that! I found it too interesting to pass up!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Interesting how you started out with the Webster Dictionary meaning of 'sorry' and that even according to that source, it used to carry deeper meaning. This was a good hub written about a single word and what that word truly means. Up and interesting votes.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thanks Caleb.

      Recognizing what sorry really means can literally change your life. You can walk from darkness and into light and rejoice when you understand what repentance is in order to do it.

    • Caleb DRC profile image

      Caleb DRC 

      5 years ago

      The whole hub is poignant, North Wind, but the last paragraph touched the essence of the subject. I think we are what we do--what we act upon. "Sorry" becomes real to the person who says it, if he/she acts upon the true meaning of the word. The same can be said for, "I love you." Those words mean nothing to the one who said them, or to the one who receives them until the one who said them acts upon them. Only then do the true feelings resides in one's heart( the one who said them).

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      5 years ago

      Good morning North Wind.

      Yes I get too much phony I am sorry.

      I explain to them what repent means and ask them if they are willing to prove they are sorry by proving it.

      Either they prove it and our relationship gets stronger or they avoid me which means they will not try to scam me again.

      God bless you.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi BlossomSB,

      There are other paintings that depict Peter's repentance that are as interesting as this one.

      Guido Reni had one called 'The Repentance of St. Peter', Francisco Goya has one called The Repentant St. Peter, and Theotokopolus, also known as El Greco did one also called 'The Repentant St. Peter'.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      A really good hub. A flippant 'sorry' that is not really meant is nearly worse than not apologising at all. Love the photo of Rembrandt's painting, too.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi shofarcall,

      I have heard the aggressive sorry. I laugh now when I think about it but it really is amazing considering the meaning of the word.

      You are right - the heart and the eyes do reveal a repentant person.

      God bless you and keep you!

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi l4l17h,

      Thank you for reading the hub. I am glad that you enjoyed it and appreciate the fact that you are sharing this with your friend :)

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      5 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thanks Faith Reaper!

      I think that there a lot of things that people say that they do not mean. Another thing that they say and do not mean is 'I am a Christian.' I think that many do not fully understand what it means to follow Christ.

    • shofarcall profile image


      5 years ago

      Oh yes! The word 'sorry' is really bandied about almost 'thoughtlessly' today. Sometimes even aggressively.

      For the most part though, we know when someone is truly sorry and repentant. The heart and the eyes tell us.

      Great hub. Voted up and useful. God Bless.

    • l4l17h profile image

      Lalith Bhonsle 

      5 years ago from Bangalore

      Excellent i just love this hub!....:)....sweet!!!!!....i'm gonna share this my friend!.....

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      I loved this . . . yes, why even bother if you are not truly sorry for anything! Why even say the words. To me, honesty is best at all times, even if it hurts.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking hub here.

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper


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