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What Constitutes a Real Apology?

Updated on February 3, 2014
The penitent man is humble.
The penitent man is humble. | Source

What did I do?!!

We do bad things.

As one of the walking wounded of Catholicism, I was brought up to understand what sin was. This is something that I don’t think is taught at CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) anymore. We were taught that sin constituted of four elements: moral offense, sufficient reflection, grievous intent, and full consent of the will. George Carlin put it as, “You had to wanna.”

If you were a Catholic, you’d understand that all of this is considered before making a penance. You had to think of all of the evil, nasty things you’d done throughout the time between your last confession and this one. You had to confess all those sins to a priest – which was always nerve wracking. Having the nasty little deed float within your conscience was bad enough. Telling the guy who’s been preaching fire, brimstone, and eternal damnation for doing what you did is almost cathartic.

Oh, and you also had to be sorry for it. It’s built into the ritual. “Oh my God, I am heartly sorry for having offended thee,” is the first line of the Act of Contrition. Unfortunately, this is based on a very weak and unlikely promise as the prayer ends with, “I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more.” If you do the Act of Contrition at age ninety-eight, you might be able to carry it out. If you do this for the first time at age seven, you’re already committing the sin of lying – because you know you’re going to do something really rotten, it’s just a matter of when.

However, I digress.

We do bad things. When we realize that we’ve done something we regret, it is only right that we apologize for it. We are imperfect beings who are subject to doing really stupid things every now and then. Some more than others. I’m writing this hub for those people. It is for the people who habitually do stupid, hurtful things who have only some inkling of what they’ve done. It is for those ignorant, stupid, dense, dullards, who pollute our lives and have no clue that they’ve become a soulless rag filled with bad jokes, foolish habits, moronic philosophies, and dense idiocies.

It’s for these subhuman lobotomy cases who need to learn that sometimes a smiley face at the end of their text isn’t enough.

How often do you give an apology and mean it?

See results

Really? Are You Sorry?

We see sincere apologies happen every day.

You’re walking along in a supermarket wondering what the price of peaches is that day and suddenly you bump into a stranger. The first words out of your mouth are, “I’m sorry.” It’s a small heartfelt acknowledgement that you were at fault. You are sorry for not looking where you were going and you regret any physical or emotional injury that the person might have suffered. It’s a small and elegant apology.

If we take the same incident and you say, “I am soooooo sorry” – and your voice has the unmistakable tone of sarcasm, you might get beaten. The only thing worse than not apologizing, is apologizing badly. A sarcastic comment in an apology is an insult. You are insincere. You may have meant to bump into that person. It may have been your intent to hurt them.

Hell, I’d punch you out.

Then there is the forced apology. Sometimes a man isn’t really sorry for calling a co-worker a brainless idiot whose only talent is working with crayons on a coloring book. He knows he’s an idiot. Yet, he was stupid enough to insult this person verbally in an office environment. His boss gets wind of it through an official complaint and he’s called into his office. The boss tells him to apologize or he’s fired. Having no choice, he either lies (as he’s not sincere) or phrases it in a way that doesn’t really show an apology at all.

The latter technique is achieved in several ways. The “apologizer” phrases the apology without using a personal pronoun. “Sorry” or “Sorry that you’re an idiot” or “Sorry that you feel that way.” And this one’s my favorite, “What I said was hurtful, and wasn’t appropriate for the workplace. I’m sorry.” This is not a true apology because the only thing the apologizer is sorry for is that the situation happened where he was made to apologize. He is sorry that the incident was discovered and that circumstances have put him in a bad place. He did not say “I’m sorry that I called you a brainless idiot.”

This is done frequently within the media. A pundit goes too far and the sponsors are getting really bad feedback from their audience. The audience is demanding that something be done. The pundit makes a half assed faux apology that, when looked at closely, isn’t an apology at all. He will drone on about the positive aspects of the injured party and say more about the situation, but you’ll see that when it’s all done, he didn’t really say anything.

And he certainly didn’t apologize.

A Proper Apology

When someone is truly repentant for what they’ve done, you know it. If the body language doesn’t suggest it, the apology and the tone of voice will.

“I am sorry for calling you a brainless idiot. It was wrong of me to say that and it was hurtful. While I have my own opinion of your capabilities, it was wrong of me to vocalize it in this setting and I promise that I will do my best to work with you in the future.”

That’s the closest thing you’ll get to sincerity.

A true apology is accompanied with contriteness and possibly a spirit of making amends. It is a rare thing to get that. It takes a person with the cognizance to know they're wrong, to know that they’ve gone too far, and to acknowledge that something needs to be done.

A true apology is heartfelt. The apologizer knows that it’s not only right, but it’s necessary. It is required. It should be done without agenda. It should be done without any kind of benefit other than to communicate the offender’s sincerest wish to show they’ve regretted the action they’ve apologized for.

Final Words

The world is smaller now.

While the actually size of the planet might have only have decreased by a few microns, we now find that things are closer than they used to be.

Through the use of social media, we are now closer to all the people we’ve ever known. When we use tools like Facebook, we feel that we’re in the company of friends, family, and close acquaintances.

We are also limited on how we express ourselves.

As we’ve become a social media culture, we’ve discovered that our dearest friends at time are less than literate. There are people that would never go to a spelling bee for fear of being stung. The written word has become our mode of communication again.It’s not the art of letter writing, but it’s still a culture where every nuance made in what we write to another person through our response is taken in, ingested, thought about, and reacted to instantly.

Unfortunately, the only thing that protects the writer from his sub par writing skills and his sardonic tone is “the smiley face”. The responder will make an insanely stupid comment and then add a “wink smiley” as if to excuse their utter uncouthness. This is the social media equivalent to the maladjusted person who precedes the worst insult you’ve ever heard with the four words, “with all due respect.”

“With all due respect, when you go out to a formal occasion with your wife, anytime I see the two of you together I think I’ve seen a bad sack of excrement.” Wink, smiley face.

There is no apology. The wink and smiley face are supposed to take the writer’s ill mannered inappropriate crap and wrap it up in a false bit of diplomatic immunity. All the world knows that ;) makes everything just peachy keen.

Only it doesn’t.

We have grown so callous through our computerized filter that we’ve forgotten the regular laws of etiquette and manners. On such arenas as Facebook, diplomacy is handled abruptly: A warning and a firing from a pistol that only has one bullet.

Acting apologetic is even worse.

When an infotainment representative (I won’t say newscaster – what they do isn’t journalism) makes an incendiary statement and appears to laugh about it and ridicule the injured party on national television and then offers their “media apology”, it means nothing as they are still reaping the reward from their shock news and offer absolutely no means of restitution. The damage has been done and if they had the opportunity to do it again, they would.

I accept sincere apologies; I never accept half-assed ones. A half-assed apology is tantamount to making love to a plastic doll. The action is the same but there is no real emotion and it’s only being done for the benefit of the man apologizing.


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    • cperuzzi profile image
      Author

      Christopher Peruzzi 4 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      This was actually birthed by the Tucker Carlson nonsense from "Fox and Friends" - it was a reprehensible bit of "journalism" regarding Wicca. He presented himself like a douche and gave a half assed apology when the entire community essentially called for his head.

      But there was ever so much more to this. People have to learn manners.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Great hub, Chris! It made me think of that Elton John song, "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" because some people appear unable to say it...or, if they do, to really mean it. Although someone in the media or politics comes to mind first when thinking of an insincere apology, ordinary individuals can be just as guilty.

      I freely admit I do things at times that require an apology. Thankfully, I learned at an early age to apologize and mean it when I'm in the wrong. (I may have to get my mind psyched up to be sincere before I open my mouth or type my apology on-screen, but I don't believe in saying "sorry" unless/until I truly am.)

      Thanks for the reminder....Voted Up+++ and shared.

      Jaye (another Sherlock aficionado)