When Is An Apology Not An Apology?

“I used to like him a lot. I supported him. I raised a lot of money for his campaign against President Obama, and certainly, if there was a misunderstanding, I would totally take that back. But hopefully, I said it correctly and certainly, shortly thereafter, I said it correctly.”  – Donald Trump’s idea of an apology to Senator John McCain.

“Sometimes in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues. But one thing; I can promise you this: I will always tell you the truth.”  – Trump apologizes to nobody in particular for nothing in particular.

“It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country — with a language barrier — and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money. I should have been much more responsible in how I handled myself for that am sorry to my teammates, my fans, my fellow competitors, my sponsors, and hosts of the great event.”  – Ryan Lochte apologizes to everyone, but seems not to understand for what he is apologizing.

sorry-1Apologies.  I recently read an article that says we all apologize hundreds of times a day.  Personally, I think that is probably a gross overstatement, else I am simply not as polite as the rest of you.  However, on reflection, we really do apologize a lot, for everything from being in somebody’s way, bumping into another in a narrow hallway, walking between a person and the television, and the list goes on.  But those are just … piffles, for lack of a better word.  The apologies I want to talk about are those where one person has actually done something that hurt or damaged another in some way.

sorry-3When is an apology not an apology?  Recently in a brief tiff with a friend, he said to me “I’m sorry.  I’m not sure what I did, but whatever it was, I’m sorry.”  Translation:  I don’t think I did anything wrong, but I want you to shut up and be nice to me again. (I am not always nice when riled)  This is what I think of as a “guy-pology”, as it is prevalent among the male gender and really humorous if you think about it.  But there are other forms of insincere apologies that are not so funny, and those seem to be a trend these days, such as the three examples at the beginning of this post.

In 2012, George Zimmerman offered this ‘apology’ to the parents of young Trayvon Martin, whom Zimmerman had murdered: “I would tell them again that I’m sorry. I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, and I pray for them daily.”  The Martin family said the apology felt “insincere” … You think?

sorry-4In June 2015, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers, offered a lengthy (615 words) apology.  In part, he said “… if you are not merciful to Allah’s creation, Allah will not be merciful to you, so I’d like to now apologize to the victims, to the survivors. I learned of some of the victims. I learned their names, their faces, their age. And throughout this trial more of those victims were given names, more of those victims had faces, and they had burdened souls. Now, all those who got up on that witness stand and that podium related to us — to me — I was listening — the suffering that was and the hardship that still is, with strength and with patience and with dignity. Now, Allah says in the Qur’an that no soul is burdened with more than it can bear, and you told us just how unbearable it was, how horrendous it was, this thing I put you through. And I know that you kept that much. I know that there isn’t enough time in the day for you to have related to us everything. I also wish that far more people had a chance to get up there, but I took them from you. Now, I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for the damage that I’ve done. Irreparable damage. And I prayed for Allah to bestow his mercy upon the deceased, those affected in the bombing and their families. Allah says in the Qur’an that with every hardship there is relief. I pray for your relief, for your healing, for your well-being, for your strength.”

sorry-5.jpgThe short definition of ‘apology’ is: a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.  Wikipedia defines a ‘non-pology’ as: a statement that has the form of an apology but does not express the expected contrition.  Then there is the ‘if-pology’ … “I apologize if I offended anyone.”  Or how about this one:  “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”  Doesn’t actually admit to doing anything wrong, and almost makes it sound as if the person receiving the apology was wrong to feel as he/she did.

sorry-6.jpgWho ever thought apologies were such complex things?  I never gave it much thought until recently when I have heard so many apologies from political candidates and other people in the public eye whose apologies were so insincere as to actually be offensive.  Donald Trump, narcissist that he is, surely has no idea how to say “I’m sorry” and mean it, but frankly I would rather he just shut his mouth than to even make the effort.  When public figures apologize publicly, it is usually nothing more than an attempt to salvage their careers or avoid legal action, rather than to express genuine regret or make the wronged party feel better.

If you wonder where I am going with this post, the answer is … nowhere in particular.  It is just the result of my mind bouncing around, as it frequently does, in the corners of a box and this is the result.  I would end with a comment about the apology of Brock Turner, the Stanford University student who raped an unconscious woman earlier this year.  His long-winded letter of apology, wherein he blamed his actions on the campus “party culture” and “drinking”, rather than accepting responsibility for his own low values and lack of moral character.  Apparently the judge thought he was sincere, as he served only three months, but the victim, as well as the rest of us, saw through it as clearly as if through a looking glass.

And with that, I now return you to your scheduled programming and I shall try to get my mind to emerge from the corner of the box …

7 thoughts on “When Is An Apology Not An Apology?

  1. It’s interesting that when athletes screw up they tap their chests and mutter “my bad.” This is their way of apologizing. But then they really screw up — as in domestic violence — they have been taught to say they are sorry and all will be forgiven. If they are good athletes, they are indeed forgiven (and quickly). If they are not important to the team they are usually ignored. But the apology is seldom if ever sincere. We are learning — all of us — how not to take responsibility (which is the basis of an apology) and to find someone else — or something else — to blame it on. Trump is the absolute champion at this move.

    Liked by 1 person

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