To many of us (especially those of us born male) saying “I’m sorry” can seem like an invitation to blame, but letting a loved one know that we feel the impact of our words or actions on them is an important element to creating an environment where love can thrive. We have much to learn from other languages and cultures in expressing this sentiment. In Spanish, you could say “Lo Siento,” in Greek, “Λυπάμαι,” both of which imply a sympathy of feeling (as in “I’m sorry your dog died”) more than “I apologize.”
In Hawaiian, there is an ancient practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, known as Ho’oponopono, literally, to make right. The ancient Hawaiians believed that forgiveness was the key to health and well-being, a belief supported by modern psychology. In Ho’oponopono, these words are repeated, like a prayer or a mantra:
Offered to a loved one, it is an acknowledgement that loving involves discovery of the unique mystery of another being — unique gifts that we can appreciate, as well as unique and un-anticipated vulnerabilities, that will be apparent only through the process of intimacy. Loving inevitably involves some risk of transgression, as we uncover the mystery of other. The practice of Ho’oponopono releases the past, and acknowledges the feelings of those we have impacted in our daily lives, making way for forgiveness, and deeper connection.
Offered to the Divine, or to ourselves, it is a gentle acknowledgement of full responsibility for our own lives. If, in any way, our lives are not as we would wish it, we lovingly and humbly acknowledge our gifts, and the breathtaking opportunity to use them to create the world we wish to have, while offering heartfelt compassion to our younger selves for bringing us to where we are now, as best we knew how.
To you, the reader, I offer:
I’m sorry (for any way you struggle with forgiveness in your life)
Please forgive me (if my words do not touch your heart)
Thank you (for your unique perspective and understanding)
(because) I love you