A very minor thing happened to me. What that thing is does not really matter. Being gracious might mean letting it go, ignoring it, or moving on and forgetting about it. I strive to be gracious, so one of those options would have been best.
In a moment of dubious wisdom, I shared the thing with the person who was indirectly responsible. This wonderful person said, “I’m sorry that happened to you.”
This is the same response I use when someone shares something with me about which I have no control. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, I said, “I’m so sorry that happened.” I meant it. I am sorry the earth shook and many, many people lost their lives. Yet, I do not take responsibility for the earthquake, and I, personally, do not have anything for which I need to apologize about the earthquake (ignoring unmitigated poverty is a separate topic).
When someone shares some sad news with me, I respond, “I am sorry that happened.” I did not cause the test results to be positive, a loved one to die, or other bad news. My response is a reflection of my sympathy, not personal responsibility. I truly am sorry they are going through something bad, and the same is true when I hear those words from someone else. I recognize that they are sympathy, perhaps even empathy, but not a statement of responsibility.