"I'm sorry." Those two words are both too easy and very difficult to say, depending on the situation at hand, and the person who wants/needs to say them. We hear them often in an insincere, shallow way. Celebrities say, "I'm sorry" when they are caught making a "big mistake." When a friend or colleague is late to meet us or does not fulfill his or her obligations, a quick "I'm sorry" is supposed to make everything better. A child is often told to apologize to a sibling or friend after doing or saying something mean, but is that mumbled "Sorry" really heart-felt? (I'm a big believer in training children to apologize--don't get me wrong--but they also need to be encouraged to have the humility to mean what they say and to change their behavior.)
What does "sorry" mean, anyway? The definition in my handy-dandy dictionary is, "Feeling or expressing sympathy, pity or regret." Expressing regret is certainly not the same as feeling it, is it? We are capable of saying anything without any feeling or intention behind our words. Does God think it's okay for us to say, "I'm sorry" to Him or anyone else, without true repentance? Without the intention of changing our behavior?
In 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, Paul says, "Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done."
So, if the words "I'm sorry" roll off our tongues too easily, simply to keep someone from being mad at us or to evoke sympathy toward us instead of accountability, we ought to try a different approach. The words "I'm sorry" should cause us to make an effort to feel true regret over how we have wronged someone, in big or small ways, and determine to change our behavior.
If "I'm sorry" is too difficult for us to say when it's appropriate, we would be wise to take James 4:10 to heart: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." It takes true humility to admit we are wrong and to seek another's forgiveness.
"I'm sorry" shouldn't be too easy OR too difficult. It should be sincere.