I’m Sorry You Felt That, But…”

I haven’t always talked about the things that are difficult to talk about, the things no one wants to talk about.

I used to avoid conflict and difficult conversations like mosquitos in the summer SC heat. The reason I didn’t push or probe or question was because often when I did, I would get the response, “I’m sorry you felt that, but…” followed by an explanation of how my instincts and intuitions were wrong. I heard it so often that I learned to silence and squelch the feeling I got that something was just not right.

And I know I am not alone.

I know there are many, many people, particularly women, who have found themselves in discriminatory environments and practices and have voiced what they instinctually and intuitively know is wrong only to be met by, “I’m sorry you felt that, but…” This rhetorical dismissal of a legitimate concern about creating equality for men and women, members of the LGTBQ community, and immigrants and outsiders, is something we can’t say we feel sorry about and then dismiss the way we continue to protect and maintain the status quo with an explanation that alleviates our guilt.

This is privilege at its worst.

I simply can’t ignore the way rhetoric is used to create spaces that are unsafe for victims and the marginalized because when we do, we continue to create entitlement and privilege that leads to systems that protect the abuser and discriminates against the victim. We create systems where former children’s ministers are not held accountable for inappropriate behavior and are then employed by school districts and charged with inappropriate contact with a child. 

Dismissing and belittling someone’s experience by saying, “I’m sorry you felt that, but…” sets the stage for continued silencing, oppression, and manipulation. Silencing, oppression, and manipulation set the stage for sexual harassment, molestation, and sexual abuse. And when this happens in communities of faith and theological interpretation is added for dismissing someone’s concern, it becomes spiritual abuse.

When you say nothing, do nothing, and dismiss others by saying, “I’m sorry you felt that, but…”, you are contributing to silence and oppress voices that matter; voices that have already experienced too much hurt and pain; voices of the people who Jesus ate with and healed.