When “sorry” loses its meaning

I have always said that it takes a big person to to say they’re sorry.  While I didn’t coin the phrase,  I do believe that to be true.

Having said that,  I find myself in a place where my faith in that saying is starting wane.

The reason I feel that way is a long story that begins many years ago. Rather than bore you with all the history, I’ll skip to the more recent times.

Gavin is a great kid and I love him very,  very much. At the same time his behaviors are extremely exhausting. 

The most frustrating part,  at least for me is that he never seems to learn from his mistakes.  In all fairness,  this may be related to his developmental delay but at the same time,  it’s still an overwhelming situation.

The most recent example of this is the inappropriate contact he keeps having with his brothers. 

He knows that he is to keep his hands,  feet and teeth to himself. He is not allowed to kiss his brothers and he needs to ask permission from someone in order to make contact with them.

For the most part he seems to be doing a bit better with this but we keep having problems with it.

Generally speaking,  any time he gets caught making inappropriate contact with someone or just doing something else he’s not supposed to be doing,  he totally freaks out.

He will meltdown and start screaming that he’s sorry

If it felt like he actually meant it,  that would be one thing.  However,  in Gavin’s case,  he’s not sorry about what he did,  he’s sorry he got caught.

Does that make sense to anyone?

If you ever listen to Gavin when he’s having a meltdown,  very rarely is he saying anything about what he did to get into trouble.  To the contrary,  he’s freaking out because he’s being held accountable for his actions.

Listening to Gavin say that he’s sorry has become like nails on a chalkboard.

I’ll be the first to admit how bad that sounds but at the same time, I’m only human.  I’m trying my best to do right by my family and I only have so much patience to go around.

Sometimes it just feels like Gavin has used up his rations.  Do you know what I mean?

I feel guilty to an extent, because a father shouldn’t feel that way about his son,  right? At the same time,  I feel like I need to be honest about it.

I’m only human and I can only take so much. It’s not like I haven’t been patient for many,  many years. I have just reached a point that I really don’t know what to do.

Gavin can do some really, really great things.  However, he can also do things that can be a real problem. 

When he makes the same less than good choices over and over and over again,  things start to get old.  When he screams he’s sorry,  but only because he was caught,  it becomes like nails on a chalkboard.

Do any of you ever experience these feelings?  How do you keep going on when it’s the same things,  over and over again?

I hate the fact that “sorry” has begun to lose its meaning..  🙁

**Thanks for reading**

       -Lost and Tired

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Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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Yep! I know how you feel. Only my daughter doesn't say "sorry." She just gets mad that I am telling her she did something wrong. Even though she knows that what she did was wrong and I've corrected the same thing on several previous occasions. It's just Another part of this condition that we all have to live with. I guess we've just got to make consequences instead of hoping that they self correct. I hate it but there it is.


That was very well said. You\’re right. It is what it is 🙂


Our youngest child's favorite word is "sorry" since he lacks empathy, and has frontal lobe brain damage, we know that he understands what the word means, but he doesn't "feel" what the word means. Does that make sense?

We are trying to eliminate "sorry" from his vocabulary. What we are striving to come up with an alternative that is for him and only him to use. Like Gavin, Marc's meltdowns reside in the realm of being caught doing something, or lieing about something that he has done. We take the "why lie" approach. What this means, is that when we know intuitively that he is lieing about what we are asking him, we will ask him about it, 3 times. Each time he must respond with either a yes or no.
After those three times, we let it go for half an hour. Then we ask him again. He must respond either yes or no. (he doesn't forget so he can't use that as an excuse)

If he still refuses to acknowledge the lie, than we wait four three to four hours. At that point, we don't ask. We say something like: "When you took the juice this morning, without permission, I was upset with you. Not because you took the juice but because you lied about taking it. Do you understand why that would upset me?"

Most of the time this works and he will acknoledge that he lied. Then we can work on correcting what caused him to lie. For the record, I am not withholding liquids from my child. His meds cause him to be dehydrated, so we keep track of his fluid intake. This is something we then report to his psych team on a weekly basis.

Like I said, most of the time, this works for us. Not always.

You aren't crazy. Everyone in our house dislikes the word sorry when it is Marc who is saying it.

Rebecca M.

I know that feeling. My son occassionally has inappropriate behavior like that and other stuff. Sometimes he really has to lose out on something he loves in order to truly feel sorry. We recently had a discussion about what happens to teenagers and adults who touch inappropriately (getting in trouble with the law, jail) and I'm hoping it will help.


Come one, Rob, you know that "should" is the word we throw out in the autism/special needs game. "Should" is as useless as Gavin's current understanding and use of "sorry." Let yourself feel what you are feeling–it is the result of what is happening. And you can't make the pieces of what is happening into anything logical, right? I know I couldn't. I am so sorry that there is this thing happening in your family, but I would ask that you please keep perspective about whether you "should" feel differently than you do. I am not good at this, by any means, but I guess I've just heard it enough to think it might help someone else, you know? My mother had a rare dementia, Pick's Disease–it is early onset, and it scrapes a person from the inside out.. Starts with executive function, moves through social filters, there's hoarding, hypersexuality, lying and stealing, and no comprehension of accountability whatsoever. She shoplifted, flashed, swore…and it just went down from there. I guess I am saying I sort of understand what it is to love someone and face that they simply will not grasp accountability for their actions. For me, it was the darkest and purest angry grief I can imagine., but some of that was because she was not a child with a future, but rather, she was just slowly dying from the soul on out–no hope, no meds, nothing to do but watch.
I am sorry that you carry these feelings, but I can't say that they are inappropriate, or that you should be judged as a result. Seems like it'd be a long hard walk to find someone who *didn't* feel as you do in your situation. The difference is that you say it. This is a hard, but good thing. I think. I'm no doctor, but it helped in my situation with my mother to admit that I was super pissed about oh…a million or so things, give or take.
Now, I am not one to be gentle with myself, so I'm mostly annoyed when others ask me to do it, but just the same (I don't know why 🙂 ) I implore you to be gentle with yourself, especially when it comes to situations like this one. Maybe it is a necessary example that we have to set for our children, I don't know. Still, feeling guilty and all "should-y" is awfully energy-consuming. I know because I do it all the time. *sigh*
Maybe if I just keep saying it to other people, I'll believe it myself, you know?
I really don't have any answers–I just know I'd feel exactly as you do, and I think it is a sign of strength that you admit it. And god knows you need that strength, right?

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