1. a regretful acknowledgement of an offense or failure
Apologies are good. Apologies are necessary. The world would be in a worse state, I think, without sincere apologies. The key word in that statement, mind you, is sincere. For where would we be without sincerity?
I remember as a child that my mom would always make us apologize or say we were sorry when we’d done something wrong. At that age my understanding of apology was more along the lines of a request for pardon or excuse. So for a long time, when I wasn’t sorry for having done something, and when given the choice between saying “I’m sorry” and “I apologize,” I always opted for the latter. I thought that this was getting me off the hook for some perceived injustice, without having to lie and claim to be sorry for what I’d done. I had no problem asking to be excused of what I’d done, but I most definitely wasn’t going to claim to feel remorse over an action that I’d willfully and deliberately committed, and would probably do again if given the option.
With age and a fascination with linguistics and semantics came a deeper understanding of the true definition of the word. With that in turn came an understanding that I might as well use one phrase as another, as neither was meant but the use of one or the other was a conventional necessity.
So it was that with an internal rolling of the eyes, I resigned myself to using these words with varying degrees of insincerity.
Admittedly, there are times when I still do this, but in truth I’ve much declined my use of insincere or unintended words, especially those which are apologies. I have always had an appreciation for sincerity, and a thirst for it, but I have so much be surrounded by its opposite, that I fell into the hypocritical habit of shying away from it.
In recent years, and most especially in recent months, I have once again come to a place of understanding the dire necessity for sincerity, whether it be in the form of forthrightness or honesty. Both are invaluable. Both have a time and place. But when it comes to apologies, it is always the time and place for sincerity.
As such an apology is not something which should be taken, or undertaken, lightly. One apologizing should be sincere, regretful, and acknowledging an actual offense, failure, or injustice. One receiving an apology should be ready to accept, appreciate, and forgive (as cliche as that may sound). Without sincerity, an apology is empty. Without regret, an apology is a lie. Without an actual offense, an apology is nothing. Nothing but a disservice to oneself.
Perhaps the second greatest mistreatments of an apology after insincerity is when one apologizes unduly. I see this every day. Hell, I do this every day, or at least I used to. I’m starting to grow out of it a bit, but it still comes back to haunt me from time to time. Like today, as a matter of fact.
Too often people apologize for things that aren’t their fault. Too often people accept responsibility for things that are not truly on them. Too often people take on the guilt of those they love or care about, whether it be to avoid fights, to smoothe over rough patches, to placate those who are actually at fault. We lay ourselves down in front of the people who have committed the true offenses, the people who should really be apologizing.
Today I responded in a completely appropriate manner to an offense of another person, one whom I care about a lot. The response of this person was to be defensive, upset, accusatory. My response? An apology. The worst part? It was a sincere apology. I really meant it. I was sorry for my offense. An offense I hadn’t committed.
This my friends is where the nasty part of apologies rears its ugly head. Not only is this an injustice we do ourselves, it becomes who we are, and it becomes who we allow others to be. If we want the best out of life, for ourselves, and for those we care about, (hell, even for those we don’t care about) then we cannot allow this. We cannot allow others to let us feel guilty for their offenses. We cannot allow ourselves to give them a free pass that does them no good in the end. We cannot allow ourselves to place ourselves in the position of submission, subservience, indignity, and injustice, no matter how slight. Part of knowing who you are as a person is accepting when something truly is not your fault, and having the maturity to not apologize when you have no right to.
My friends, I’m still learning this lesson. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell you that I’ve started to live this way. Until then I wish you all the best of luck.
NB: Apology comes from the Greek ‘apologia’ meaning ‘a speech in one’s own defense’. What do you think of that?