Learning to say "I'm sorry" like Maui has only strengthened our marriage

Heather Jauquet

How often do you say these three little words?

A couple embracing on the beachJonathan Borba/Unsplash

Early in my marriage, I never apologized for anything. Ever. One night, after a terrible argument, my husband pointed out that I never said these three little words: I am sorry.

This three-word phrase is one of the most challenging things for anyone to utter. While it is only three words, it carries a lot of weight. It means you have made a mistake. It also means setting your pride aside and showing a vulnerable side of yourself. Most people would rather hang on to their pride than apologize and learn from their mistakes. Others can go in their lives, never giving an apology, but always an excuse for their actions.

We have all been in that situation where we need to apologize. While apologizing can be awkward and embarrassing, it can also lead to better communication, ultimately benefiting your relationships.

No matter what you do or where you go in life, “I’m sorry” can be the most valuable thing you say to someone.

Those three little words, “I am sorry,” can alleviate a misunderstanding, repair a relationship, or de-escalate a situation.

The classic non-apology apology includes an extra word, and it doesn’t count

When our children are young, there are times when they have hit someone or said something not very nice. We make them say, “I’m sorry.”

If you have a teenager or even a sassy 10-year old, do they heave a big sigh, roll their eyes, and say, “Sorry” in a way you know that they don’t mean it. My teenager likes to say, “Okay, Mama,” when I tell him he needs to say he’s sorry. In case you’re wondering, that’s not an apology.

The classic non-apology apology includes one extra three-letter word that carries a lot of weight: but. As in, “I’m sorry, but…” fill in the blank.

  • I’m sorry, but you made me do it.
  • I’m sorry, but you are not the only who…
  • I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.

The list can go on. If you are adding the word “but” to your apology, chances are you are not sorry.

Maui’s apology to Te Fiti

The best apology is when you acknowledge the mistake. Replace the three-letter word “but” with “for,” and you are well on your way to a better apology. When you say, “I am sorry for…” you identify the wrongdoing. Then, you recognize the action or words that hurt someone.

The best apology I have seen was in the movie Moana. Te Fiti confronts Maui with just a look. You can see his discomfort knowing that he has done something wrong. Throughout the film, he tries to justify his actions and runs from his responsibility. In the end, he acknowledges and apologizes for his actions:

“Look, what I did was wrong. I have no excuse. I’m sorry.” —Maui to Te Fiti, Moana

Maui doesn’t give any excuses. There are no “buts” in his apology. Instead, he says, “What I did was wrong…I’m sorry.”

My husband and I have been married 20 years, and we are both much better at apologizing when we have hurt each other's feelings. Those three little words have helped us communicate better and have only strengthened our marriage.


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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.


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