Friday, April 13, 2007

When Sorry is really....`sorry'.

What does an apology mean? And when is an apology not an apology, in the truest sense?

  • A radio talk show host `apologizes' for some genuinely stupid remarks, not because he's truly repentant, but in a desperate attempt to keep his job and appease pressure groups pushing for him to be fired.
  • A US Senator `apologizes' after referring to the President of the United States as a `loser' in front of a group of high school students - and then goes on to even more intemperate public assaults afterwards.
  • A district attorney, `apologizes' to three young men he attempted to send to prison for his own political gain for lying, committing ethics violations and breaking almost every rule of legal procedure
  • A major news anchorman is caught red-handed trying to influence a presidential election by cooking up a fraudulent story using forged documents to libel and impugn the character of one of the candidates..and `apologizes' - not to the man he libeled, but to his audience at large - while letting his subordinates take the fall for him.
These sordid events all have something in common. They're symbolic of what I can only refer to as the degeneration of what an apology means.

Obviously, I'm not talking about the small stuff - the little gaffes we all commit while sharing the planet with our fellow human beings. No, we're talking the Big Sorry here.

An apology is a sincere expression of repentance, based on a realization that one has truly erred and injured someone else, either through negligence, ignorance or a momentary lapse of ethics the person apologizing now realizes was wrong and hurtful.

Inherent in that apology - in the very action of apologizing - is a desire not to repeat the offense, to acknowledge wrongdoing and do one's utmost to repair the damage make things right.

Or to put it in simpler terms, as Mom would say, if you broke it, fix it. If you made the mess, clean it up.

Based on that, none of the examples given above even remotely qualifies as a real apology.

They are all coerced by self interest or fear in an attempt to evade consequences or shift blame and none of them makes the slightest attempt to actually redress a wrong or clean up anything at all.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the old joke about a robber being sorry - not because he stole, but because he got caught at it.

If none of these situations had gone public, or worse, if they had gotten away with it, would any of the perpetrators be `apologizing'?

In a word these sorries are..well, sorry.

It used to be that, generally speaking, people took pride in taking personal responsibility for their actions, and when they felt they had made errors in judgement that called for an apology, they did what was necessary to fix it, to clean up the mess, to make things right.

Nowadays, we seem to be enveloped in a virus of mere words of abasement that make a mockery of what a real apology ought to be.

And that really is sorry.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like another "The World's Going To Hell in a Hand Basket" rant. People have always sought to avoid responsibility for their actions. I have been hearing "I am sorry if anybody was offended by what I said" appologies all my life. You are right. They are sorry appologies, but they are no different than appologies of the past.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,
Thanks for dropping by.

Some people have always sought to avoid responsibility - but with boomers,who know run the culture,it has become systemic and almost instinctive.

The world is not going to hell in a handbasket - but the boomer generation is fairly deficient in taking responsibility if any kind.

We live in the age of the Victim.

My point was on how the very nature of an apology and what it means has become distorted by the culture, and I don't think I'm mistaken about that.

Sorry you felt that constituted a rant.

Have a good weekend!

Anonymous said...

There's always the 1/2 baked apology. "well YOU did it too" or "I am sorry what I did was wrong BUT..." and usually it trys to shift 50% to 100% of the blame onto the person who probably deserved a genuine apology. Then the offender evades and runs away and will tell others "they are hassling me - I said I was sorry - what more do they want" I am waiting for this in the Imus case.

And let's REALLY hold Sharpton ("jewish money lenders) and Jessie (hymietown) Jackson and Rush (Obama is a Half-rican) Limbaugh accountable too. The main reason for all of the hoop-la was money - we have lost our true sense of ethics.

Here's one of my FAVORITE quotes:

"Powerful and sneaky people use apologies as end runs around repentance. They betray a trust; and, when they have been found out, they say they are sorry for "mistakes in judgement". They smile through their oily apologies when their crime calls for quakes of repentance. They get by only because we have lost our sense of the difference between repentance for wrong and apologies for bungling.... We should not let each other get away with it. A deep and unfair hurt is more than a mere faux pas. We cannot put up with everything from everyone; some things are intolerable. When someone hurts us deeply and unfairly [deliberately], an apology will not do the job; it only trivializes a wrong that should not be trifled with."

-- Lewis B. Smedes, "Forgive and Forget"

Shabbat Shalom

Freedom Fighter said...

I see you picked up on the theme of teshuva, Barbara - so did a lot of other people, based on my e-mails.

Sincere teshuva ( repentance) means not only apologizing, but `making it right' beyond mere words.

Especially, it doesn't mean a cosmetic apology designed to `look good' in the public eye or ward off the consequences.

And above all, realizing where you went off track and resolving not to do so in the future.

We're none of us perfect, but it seems that some of these people aren't even trying, y'know?

Thanks for dropping by...