Genuine Apologies

What does a true apology mean to you? How can one apologize to you with sincerity? A teacher back in the day told us that there’s never a “but” in a genuine apology. There’s also never a true sorry excusing oneself, or insinuating/directing fault on the person being apologizing to.  Some of us may not genuinely apologize enough or hear well deserved apologies enough.  What kind of an apology would allow you to forgive someone for an unimaginable act?

“I’m sorry for hurting you, but you made me do it.”

Believe it or not, I think this is a pretty common type of apology that is given when one has a hard time admitting to one owns blunder or taking accountability.  This type of apology may also be frequently seen in abusive situations where the person will repeatedly hurt someone, verbally or physically, then if apologizing, direct fault on the other person.  For example, “I’m sorry for hitting you, but you made me so mad.”

I’ve watched a lot of true murder mystery episodes online where they take suspects interrogation room and to court (if prosecuted), and sometimes when the person does admit some guilt or apology, sometimes they do so in a way that puts the victim somehow responsible for their murder.  For example, “I’m sorry, but she got me so mad that I strangled her.”

I admit I have been both the giving and receiving end of the redirecting apology at least a few times in my lifetime. The giving end mostly happened in the past as a kid and I think was more about being stubborn, the fear of admitting fault, and feeling “weak.”  I can make an educated guess that that’s probably how it is with others who are at the giving end. I also know what it feels like to be at the receiving end, and know others who have been in the most severe receiving end, where they are controlled by it. In a worse case scenario, they end up constantly agreeing it’s somehow their own fault for the other person(s) actions, and believing that they deserved such maltreatment.

“I have a disease.”

I hate to mention his name, but he made one of the most controversial, debated about, public apology– Tiger Woods. He came out publicly at a long formal public hearing apologizing for adultery and acknowledging a non-substance “addiction” and (note that I’m not stating my opinion)– this angered a lot of people because they felt his apology was not sincere, more like a scripted speech, and that he was trying to direct responsibility away from his own actions to the result of a “disease.”   I do see their point of view how, given the situation, a long speech, and emphasis on such addiction did come off as insincere.  So I would suggest that if you want to give an apology that others will more likely feel sincere, I would keep it short, simple, and acknowledge complete responsibility of your own action.  Of course there are situations where it is appropriate to acknowledge the reason for the actions  For example, “Sorry that I didn’t return your call.. got sick and lost my voice.”

“I’m sorry to hear that you’re having having difficulties [with me or our service].”  

To the person receiving this type of apology, it sounds more like an indirect unapologetic apology. Saying sorry to hear instead of a “I’m sorry for making this mistake.” generally doesn’t sound sincere and instead sounds like it’s redirecting the responsibility elsewhere, usually back to the receiver.  I have certainly received these type of apology and know others who have been in this situation such as when they were mistreated by others; instead of an “I’m sorry for mistreating and disrespecting you.”  They kept receiving an “I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling this way.” which felt that they themselves were being blamed or responsible in for “feeling.” 

These 3 types of apologies may not be genuine to many.  It’s hard for people to accept insincere sorries while others may forgive no matter the act, because of religious or personal philosophies.  But others may only feel forgiveness is deserved only to those who are truly sorry..  So what kind of an apology would allow you to forgive someone for an unimaginable act?  How can one apologize to you with sincerity?  What does a true apology mean to you?

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