'I'm Sorry' and 'Please Forgive Me'
The topic of this article may not be readily evident. It is one I have wanted to address because it seems as if there is not really any difference between the two above phrases in the title, but if you think about it the difference becomes clear. It became obvious to me when I saw the two separated in an auto-translate function and figured there must be something to differentiate them besides the words chosen.
We are not alone in this vast experience of living. We are by nature social and our lives overlap and criss-cross others with incredible frequency. There is bound to be some friction because we all have our own needs and desires and these do not always coincide positively with what others need or desire. Thus, our actions are bound to offend someone, sooner or later at some time. What happens in our minds when this occurs? Do we merely seek to resolve it to move on or do we use the opportunity to see ourselves through the others’ eyes? This is the difference between 'I’m sorry' and 'please forgive me.' One is sympathy, the other is empathy. One says, 'that’s too bad that happened to you and I’m glad it’s not me' and the other says 'this easily could have been me in your shoes, would you allow me some grace and let it go?'
If you go one level deeper, then the difference between them separates even more. 'I’m sorry' is pity or remorse and 'please forgive me' is love or compassion. 'I’m sorry' involves mostly yourself and your concern that you have done something which you may feel guilty for or regret. There is very little thought for the other person except how they may help you save face. 'Please forgive me' openly involves the other and requires them to give something in order to rectify the situation. 'I’m sorry' is very egotistical while 'please forgive me' shows concern for the other’s situation. Of course there is 'me' in 'please forgive me' but it is nothing that one alone can take responsibility for. All the weight rests on the other to take action. Of course if they do, then there is peace remaining where before there was none. This is where 'please forgive me' opens the door to love and compassion. Besides allowing the individual to have empathy for the other, it creates a bond of good feeling and restitution beyond the homeostasis of 'I’m sorry.' Forgiveness is a gift of grace and kindness while being sorry offers little more than regret.
The English language has many nuances, if we only explore them. Nonetheless it can be lacking at times. Take the reverse situation: something happens to someone, you are not involved but you wish to show empathy. In this case, 'I’m sorry' will have to do if we wish to take some ownership. As we saw it does not offer much except regret and pity. However, at this time, without being wordy, 'that’s too bad' or 'I feel for you' is about as feeling and involved as you can get until the language evolves to fill this situation. In this case we can fall back upon our habits while still understanding the deeper nuances below.