The art of a mindful apology: 10 times when saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Wouldn’t it be great if an apology was enough to fix things every time you make a mistake?

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. 

Some things are too harmful and too painful to be rectified with a simple word. 

In fact, certain actions or decisions can create a ripple effect, touching not just the situation but the core of someone’s trust and emotional well-being.

And that’s what I’ll be covering today, 10 times when saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, but also how to go about making up for your mistakes.

1) Betrayal of trust

Trust, once broken, is incredibly hard to rebuild. 

And I get it – we’ve all been there and thought that a heartfelt apology would be enough, but it often isn’t. 

Let’s say you messed up. You let a secret slip, and now your friend’s looking at you like you’re a stranger.

You’ve said sorry a thousand times, but they’ve closed themselves off from you. They know you’re genuinely sorry, but that doesn’t mean they can trust you again just yet. 

In this situation, you’re going to have to do more than say “sorry”. 

You need to give the other person time, whilst also consistently showing them you are changing for the better and becoming a more reliable, trustworthy person. 

2) Repeated offenses

A repeated offense isn’t just another mistake; it’s a blatant disregard for someone’s feelings. 

I know that might sound harsh. I’m not deliberately trying to make you feel bad, rather I want you to understand the severity of it. 

I had an ex who repeatedly messaged other women. He never took it further, but each time I caught him, he’d beg for forgiveness. 

“Sorry” became a word I was familiar with, but over time, it lost meaning. 

In fact, if I’m being completely honest, it started to sound like a mockery. Like he could do whatever he wanted and with puppy dog eyes and an apology, get away with it. 

So, if you’ve repeatedly hurt someone, saying sorry is just the start. Change your behavior instead, to show you really regret your actions. 

3) Infidelity

You’ve betrayed your partner. You’ve apologized until you’re blue in the face. Yet they still won’t forgive you.

This is another situation when saying “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough. 

Think about it, it’s not just trust you’ve broken:

  • They’re heartbroken. They never thought you’d hurt them in this way, and now they’re unsure if it’s a relationship worth continuing. 
  • They’re going to struggle to trust again. Whether it’s with you or someone else, they’ve now got a trauma to work through before trusting again. 
  • They may feel insecure or inadequate. Your infidelity may cause them to question their worth and whether they’re “good enough”. 

So, while it’s good that you’ve apologized, now it’s time for the hard part – accepting that they may or may not want you back. 

If they do, you have a chance. Be a good partner, go to therapy, and do what you can to reassure them this won’t happen again. 

And if they don’t want you back? I’m afraid you’ll have to move on and see this as a painful lesson to learn from. 

4) Emotional abuse

You’ve emotionally hurt someone close to you, and the weight of that mistake is hitting you hard. 

Unfortunately, simply saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t reverse the emotional pain you’ve caused. 

Why? Well, first you need to understand the impact you’ve had on them: 

Emotional abuse undermines someone’s self-worth and can cause long-lasting psychological harm. 

An apology won’t quickly restore the damage done to their self-esteem or remove the emotional barriers they’ve had to put up. 

So, if you’re sincere about making things right, your apology is just the starting point, just as I mentioned in the point above. 

The real work lies in your commitment to personal growth—perhaps involving professional help like therapy—and a significant effort to change your behavior. 

This isn’t a quick fix; it’s a long-term investment in becoming a better person. 

My question to you is, are you up for the challenge?

5) Physical harm

Physical harm is something no one should have to go through. But, let’s be realistic, things can get out of hand. 

And physical abuse is much more common than we like to admit. 

Now, if you’ve been guilty of losing your temper or hurting someone physically, you need to understand that an apology won’t change anything. 

It’s just words at the end of the day. 

What the other person needs to see is a real effort on your part to change. Whether that’s anger management classes or therapy in another form. 

And even then, they may choose not to forgive you, and that’s absolutely their right to do so. 

All you can do is ensure you never hurt someone else again. 

6) Public humiliation

For this point, let’s imagine you’ve publicly criticized a friend or partner in front of other people. Just to give you an idea, here’s how they might feel as a result:

  • Belittled and disrespected. Airing dirty laundry or criticizing someone in public is the epitome of disrespect. It shows you don’t value their dignity.
  • Humiliated. Criticism in public places puts them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing them in front of peers.
  • Undermined and devalued. This type of action can significantly harm the other person’s confidence, possibly affecting how others see them as well.

Do you think an apology will resolve all of that? 

Probably not…the other person will be feeling raw and hurt right now.

So, the first thing you need to do is acknowledge what you’ve done. Validate their feelings and show that you’ve thought about the consequences of your actions. 

Apologize, but keep in mind that you’ll need to check yourself going forward. What may be “funny” to you could be seriously harming your relationships. 

I think the phrase, “think before you speak” applies well to this situation. 

7) Deception

When you’ve deceived someone, you’ve essentially manipulated reality to your advantage. 

Even if you did it with good intentions, it’s still hurting the other person. Here’s an example: 

For about two years, I believed my grandpa passed away from old age, peacefully. 

Until one day, a cousin of mine posted an appeal. She was running for Cancer Research UK and in her statement she said, “For my grandpa, who died of leukemia.” 

I was about 16 when I read her post, and I still remember my heart dropping. I instantly confronted my parents about it. Long story short, they said they withheld the truth so as to not hurt me more. 

But it backfired; I felt like everything I had believed was a lie. If they were untruthful about this, what else should I know about? 

So of course a simple ‘sorry’ isn’t going to fix things. You have to rectify this by being open and honest about everything. 

That’s the only way to win back their trust. 

8) Criminal acts

Perhaps you’ve made some bad choices in life. Let’s say you stole from your friend.  

Even though you might regret it deeply, this isn’t enough for them to easily forgive you. 

The truth is, saying ‘sorry’ after committing a crime might be a start, but it’s hardly sufficient. 

From the victim’s point of view, they’ve been deeply betrayed. If it was someone you don’t know, it’s likely their whole world has been turned upside down. 

I remember when my house got broken into years ago, I couldn’t sleep for weeks afterward. 

I was constantly on edge; I felt physically sick to think someone had been in and touched what was supposed to be my sanctuary of safety. 

We never found out who did it, but even if they’d apologized, it wouldn’t have been enough. I’d have wanted them to serve time and truly learn from their mistake. 

Perhaps you need to start giving back to the community – it might be the best option to show you’re genuinely sorry and willing to change. 

Final thoughts

That brings us to the end of this article – I guess the main point you need to take away is that words are rarely enough, it’s our actions that have the biggest impact. 

Just because someone won’t forgive you today, it doesn’t mean that through consistent effort and time, they won’t forgive you in the future. 

The question is how hard you’re willing to put your “sorry” into action and make genuine changes. 

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

If you display these 10 behaviors, you’re being emotionally unavailable without realizing it

If you really want to become a confident speaker, say goodbye to these 10 habits