Today's example comes from the inexplicably popular "Love Story." Far from burying its most foolish line in an obscure, fleeting, and little-noticed scene, this waste of celluloid made it a tag line: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
If the author of this line really means it, I find it hard to believe he's managed to sustain a serious relationship for more than a couple of weeks.
The truth is thevery opposite of that bit of absurdity. Love actually means being willing to say you're sorry. It means being big enough, in mind and in heart, to admit you're wrong -- occasionally, even when you're right.
I can sorta-kinda see the faulty reasoning behind the line, the naive assumption that if you love someone enough, you will never make a mistake bad or hurtful enough to necessitate an apology. Bunkum. Mistakes are inevitable, and arguments are a part of any long-term relationship, be it husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or parent/child. Emotions get heated, words are exchanged, and you'd better be open to the power of an apology, both giving and accepting.
So what's so great about saying you're sorry?
1. Apologies are a way of accepting responsibility. If heartfelt, they state plainly, "I did it; no one made me; it's my fault, and therefore I will do what I can to make it right." Assuming responsibility for one's action may not be popular in today's Culture of Excuses ("Hey, Tiger couldn't help himself! He just did what red-blooded males do!"), but it's essential when it comes to sustaining a relationship. Shoulders not strong enough to bear occasional blame will crumble altogether under the weight of love.
2. When we apologize, we acknowledge our birthright as humans: our fallibility. By the same token -- again, if the apology is sincere -- we express in it an intent to fix the problem, to learn from the mistake rather than repeat it. When we know we've hurt someone we genuinely care about, the last thing we want is to do it again. An apology tells the person we love, "Your feelings matter to me. YOU matter to me."
3. Apologies provide closure. They bring a quarrel to a definite end. When no apology is given, a dispute may hover in the air for days or even weeks, creating misery for everyone concerned. But a couple who can apologize show themselves ready to move forward to the next challenge, even if that means the next quarrel. Each challenge to which we rise fits us better to conquer the one that follows. Genuine apologies are progressive steps.
So if you're really in love, be prepared to say you're sorry. Moreover, be prepared to hear it and accept it. Forgiveness is the most precious and sustaining gift we give one another.