The Only 3 Words Harder To Say Than 'I Love You'

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Nervous woman feeling insecure

Among the most powerful but difficult things there are to say to the people we care about, for many people there are three little words that are more difficult than all the others — "I am sorry" (along with "I was wrong" and "Please forgive me").

Why is it so hard to say "I'm sorry"?

Even when we clearly know we've said or done something we shouldn't have, internalized beliefs consciously or subconsciously cause us to dig in our heels and avoid offering an apology.



Here are nine common reasons people have so much trouble saying they are sorry:

1. Fear of being seen as a bad person and not appreciated for the good things they've done.

This excuse distracts us from directly resolving an issue. It focuses our attention on our fears — in particular, the fear of feeling we don't matter or contribute value in our relationships.

RELATED: How To Apologize To Someone You Hurt, According To Psychology

Relationships are a shared experience. Like you, your partner is also wired to yearn to feel like a good and worthwhile person who is recognized for their contributions.

The point here is that it was your actions that were hurtful, not your as a person.

This is a vital distinction. When our actions caused some harm, the ball is in our court to restore a sense of trust and safety in the relationship.

2. Not wanting to feel uncomfortable emotions, such as shame and guilt.

This excuse misdirects us to focus on avoiding pain, rather than identifying the problem.

It makes sense that you don't like feeling vulnerable. It also makes sense to feel uncomfortable emotions when someone is upset by our actions. It's even useful to us!

These feelings tell us we care, and that's a good thing. It's a source of information that, if you're open, can grow your understanding of the situation.

In other words: this is critical action-activating information. In contrast, ignoring the vulnerable aspects of human nature can keep us weak and fearful.

Learning how to own and to strengthen our own sense of emotional safety in a triggering situation is an essential life skill that grows and strengthens our courage and confidence in the long run. Be open and willing to get comfortable with what is uncomfortable to you.

3. Thinking it's the other person's job to forgive without you having to say anything.

The truth is that both of you are probably good people at heart. Like genuine love, genuine forgiveness is a reciprocal process that nurtures both partners and allows them to learn and grow in the process.

It is a willingness to engage in whatever actions necessary to nourish the relationship between two people, and enriches the growth and wellbeing of each. It's as harmful to not acknowledge we've hurt another as it is to be pressured to forgive and forget — especially when actions are repetitive.

If we want vibrant and healthy relationships, we must be willing to engage heartfelt efforts to own actions that, wittingly or unwittingly, hurt a person we love.

No one is entitled to automatic forgiveness, especially when actions are repetitive. In fact, in some contexts, this can "enable" us to form unhealthy habits. It's not helpful to think of forgiveness as an automatic requirement.

It does not help either person learn how to better relate to their feelings and thoughts, wants and needs, one another, themselves, or their relationship.

RELATED: 11 Examples of Insincere Or Fake Apologies

4. Thinking that admit you were wrong will make you seem weak.

It's actually the other way around.

It takes a lot of courage and strength to own one's actions, to make changes to prevent repeating the wrongful action — to even say those words!

It grows courage in the process, and thus, more confidence.

5. Thinking you are not worthy of forgiveness.

This way of thinking makes us more likely to repeat mistakes and wrongful actions. It is a limiting belief that leads us to take actions that are harsh on others and ourselves.

It's essential to realize that we are not our beliefs or emotions or thoughts; instead, we are the creator of them. As much as we yearn for compassion from others, we need our own first.

We need to see our self as a human being who not only has a right to make and learn from mistakes, but also that this is essential to our growth.

6. Thinking nothing can undo the wrong you've done.

This belief keeps us stuck in the past and feeling powerless to change.

We need to know that we always have a choice to change a situation by changing and improving the way we express our love — in action.

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7. Thinking they'll never forgive you anyway.

This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and, again, reflects an excuse that takes away our power to take action by persuading us that we are helpless.

While earning one's forgiveness may be healing for the other and for our relationship, we also need to apologizing of this as something we are doing that is in our highest interest.

8. Thinking that if you apologize it implies you are the only one who did anything wrong.

This excuse keeps us focused on the problem in a way that can fuel attack and counterattack. To make amends, we must deal with our hurts separately. Otherwise, they become mere justifications for more wrongful actions.

It's essential that we learn how to separate and deal with one issue at a time.

In general, we should follow guidelines for healthy communications that allow both partners to feel safe enough to open their hearts and share what is in their minds and hearts.

9. Thinking it makes no sense to try to earn forgiveness if the other person no longer wants a relationship.

This excuse prevents us from seeing that taking responsibility for our actions is something we do to enhance our own peace of mind and wellbeing.

It may be too late to restore the relationship, but it can still be a new beginning that alters our relationships that to come.

We do not need to have a relationship with the other person to seek forgiveness.

We heal ourselves whenever we refrain from repeating an action that we understand to be hurtful to our relationships.

Our peace of mind and health depend on learning to activate healing patterns and processes.

RELATED: How To Know When You Should (And Shouldn't) Apologize

Dr. John M. Grohol regularly writes for Psych Central, reporting on the latest science in mental health psychology, dissecting bad research, and adding his personal thoughts on the world of psychology.