Forgiveness: The Presence Of Its Absence

“It’s impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it’s so hard to decide what actually counts as a word. Is dog one word, or two (a noun meaning ‘a kind of animal’, and a verb meaning ‘to follow persistently’)? If we count it as two, then do we count inflections separately too (e.g. dogs = plural noun, dogs = present tense of the verb). Is dog-tired a word, or just two other words joined together? Is hot dog really two words, since it might also be written as hot-dog or even hotdog?

It’s also difficult to decide what counts as ‘English’. What about medical and scientific terms? Latin words used in law, French words used in cooking, German words used in academic writing, Japanese words used in martial arts? Do you count Scots dialect? Teenage slang? Abbreviations?

Rose and Books1

The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest is made up of exclamations, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc. And these figures don’t take account of entries with senses for different word classes (such as noun and adjective).

This suggests that there are, at the very least, a quarter of a million distinct English words, excluding inflections, and words from technical and regional vocabulary not covered by the OED, or words not yet added to the published dictionary, of which perhaps 20 per cent are no longer in current use. If distinct senses were counted, the total would probably approach three quarters of a million.”- Oxford Dictionaries

Three quarters of a million! And, in that total are two little words that are uttered countless times in passing. I’m sorry rolls off the tongue when we accidentally bump into someone. I’m sorry is instilled in preschoolers across America on a daily basis as they learn to socially interact with others in preparation for social interaction on a grander scale.

For some women, I’m sorry is habitually the opening to a sentence, as though they are excusing their rightful demands before the request is even complete. Why are you sorry? For speaking your mind? For being you? For being heard?

These two short words when voiced together hold the weight of three quarters of a million if placed on a scale. Yet, they are losing their value as we use them without substance or consideration to their meaning in the particular instance in which we present them.

“I’m sorry you feel that way” reduces the intensity of an argument. However, are we really sorry the person expressing something which obviously offended us enough to spark an argument “feels that way?”

“I’m sorry I can’t work late today” presents us in a better light when responding to the boss’s request for overtime. Yet are we really sorry we can’t burn the midnight oil in place of spending more time with our loved ones?

“I’m sorry if this blog post offends anyone” is often typed at the beginning of posts all across the bloggerhood. And, truth be told if we are writing it, posting it, sharing it…we aren’t truly sorry are we?

Two words. I’m sorry.

Their presence often goes unnoticed as they are squeezed between more words until they are distorted into something different in their meaning. They tumble out in an avalanche of words that rush them past their significance, sending them flying down a slope of meaningless jargon. I’m sorry…originally meant to convey an apology has warped from a heartfelt emotion into an empty message. These two words are flung about repeatedly as a way of appeasing the recipient, softening them, plying them to bend to our will often in the hopes of easing our own conscience. The magnitude of those two little words being spoken to one whose been slighted holds more meaning than three quarters of a million other words. Looking in someone’s eyes and expressing your regret, your remorse, your apology…with your eyes, your words and ultimately your heart is an action that comforts both the recipient and the giver.

And yet…

And yet, the presence of their absence is felt to our very core when it is all we seek to move forward, when we are at a standstill unable to take another step as pain and hurt hold us firmly rooted. The presence of its absence holds us hostage.

This month’s 1000Speak topic is Forgiveness. Join in with your own post and read other’s take on it here.


Forgiveness Prompts For #1000Speak January Link-up

1000 Voices Speak for Compassion is almost a year old! We were born on the 12th of January, 2015, and our first event was the 20th of February. Since then we’ve written about kindness, nurturing, gratitude and several other topics as well as, of course, compassion.

For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the structure of our monthly themes, I’ll do a recap.

Every quarter (that’s: March, June, September and December) the theme is simply COMPASSION.

Any other month you are welcome to write about any aspect of compassion. The themes are ALWAYS OPTIONAL. We provide them to spark ideas or give direction for those who feel the need. If you feel called to write about a different aspect of compassion we absolutely would love to have you join us and to read your post.

If you aren’t sure what you write about FORGIVENESS, we have a few suggestions that might spark ideas for you.

Forgiveness Prompts

Can someone simply choose to forgive, or is it more complex? What are your experiences and observations? Tell the world!


How do compassion and empathy affect forgiveness?


In what way does anger have a place in forgiveness?


Do you find it easy to forgive or hard?


Maybe you have felt forgiveness for someone who harmed you in some way. Was it spontaneous or did you have to work at it? We’d love to read your story.


Have you ever felt forgiveness for someone at a time when other people said you shouldn’t? Tell us about that!

Have you ever felt unable to forgive and people have said you should? Tell us about that too.


Does self-forgiveness matter? And if it does, how can we achieve it? Share your thoughts and any process you use!


Have you experienced being forgiven for something you did that harmed another? How did that affect you?


Who is forgiveness for?


Of course, these are just ideas and we’d love to read anything you have to say about Forgiveness, or any aspect of compassion. Do join us on the 20th of January!