When Is An Apology Not An Apology? – Redux

Yesterday, when I heard of Roseanne Barr’s half-hearted ‘apology’ for her blatantly racial slurs, I was reminded of a post I wrote nearly two years ago on apologies.  What Roseanne and her defenders fail to realize is that you cannot apologize for being a racist, a hater … it just doesn’t work. My feelings about apologies remain the same as they were in September 2016, and I thought this a good time to share this post again.


“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 …

48 thoughts on “When Is An Apology Not An Apology? – Redux

  1. Roseanne’s apology wasn’t an ‘I’m sorry’ apology but a ‘Society says I’m supposed to be sorry’ apology. If she had meant the apology she wouldn’t have tacked on so many excuses behind why it happened.

    Liked by 1 person

      • There are a vast number of clips on You Tube.
        Essential the episodes revolve around three priests on the Irish location of Craggy Isle:
        Ted, inept, weak-willed, prone to schemes
        Dougal, young and hopelessly not in touch with the world.
        Jack- speaks for himself.
        Mrs Doyle: The housekeeper, famous for ever being on hand with a cup of tea and saying ‘Go on, go on, go on, go on’.
        The show was put together by writers and cast out of Ireland, most of whom including the guest slots were established Irish actors or comics.
        It’s constantly on re-runs on UK tv and has passed into TV legend. As with Monty Python everyone who watched it has their favourite snippets, lines or catch phrases.😂 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A scene from “A Fish Called Wanda,” comes to mind…

    Kevin Kline thinking John Cleese is someone else (A burgled in his own home as a ruse), attacks him. Once he realises his mistake (he has gone there to apologise to John Cleese), he stops and starts muttering, “I’m Sorry, I’m Sorry!” But then he continues to kick and beat up John Cleese saying ” What kind of fool robs his own home!”

    Ms Barr is like Kevin Kline in this movie… so disingenuous.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry I don’t comment very often these days, Jill!
    We Brits (older ones more so perhaps) are notorious for saying sorry. I am guilty as charged. But real apologies are also something I do. I can’t stand it if I know I have done something wrong, I HAVE to apologise. I feel awful until I do. I wonder if we are seeing the results of telling children ‘you are wonderful, everything you do is great, don’t worry about what other people say,’ all the time. And I HATE it when I say, ‘oh, I’m sorry,’ or even ‘thank you’ and someone responds ‘no worries’ Aaargh. Sigh. Back to my cave. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may have hit the nail on the head with that. Perhaps our efforts to build their self-esteem have gone over the edge and we are raising a society of narcissists? Okay, perhaps that is a bit extreme, but you know what I mean. I’ve missed you, to be sure … but then every night I say, “tonight I will write to Mary”, and then I don’t. I have been battling respiratory infections for a while, and my energy levels are at an all-time low. But know that I think of you often and always love my dear friend Mary! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, Jill, don’t feel an obligation, to know you think of me now and then is quite good enough – you are doing us all a great service by keeping us informed. Take care and try to take some time off… I know, hopeless. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, one reason the apology word is foreign to people like The Donald is another “a” word he has trouble with -accountability. He rarely apologizes as he rarely assumes accountability for his actions. My favorite is he wails away on Obama for years on the “birther” issue. He starts his political aspirations off the birther issue. Then when he decides to come clean and say Obama was born in the US, he blames Hillary Clinton for the birther issue.

    Character is not a word that comes to mind when I think of the US President. Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • So true … and there is another “a-” word that he personifies on a daily basis, but I shall refrain from saying what it is. Arrogance, narcissism … they both interfere with a person’s ability to take responsibility for their own actions, for they cannot see, cannot admit that they could have possibly done anything wrong. No, character or integrity are not words I associate with Trump. But to be fair, they are not words I associate with many in Washington these days.

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      • Thanks Jill and Nan. I watched the documentary on the life of John McCain. What I found telling, he did not hide his mistakes. He showed them and then later said he screwed up. One particular scene shows him answering a reporter’s question in SC about the Confederate flag flying atop the SC state Capitol during the 2000 Presidential election. He gave a political answer, which violated his promise to tell the truth. He went back a year later after losing to Bush, and brought up the issue and how he really felt. His forefathers fought on the side of the Confederacy, but he could not support the flying of a flag that denigrated people whose forefathers were enslaved under that flag. Keith

        Liked by 2 people

        • McCain is, indeed, a class act and he will be sorely missed. Trump may not consider McCain a hero, but I’ll tell you what … McCain is one hundred times the man that Trump will ever be.

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  5. When my adult children were growing up, I spent a lot of time teaching them to take responsibility for their words and actions. I admonished them to choose their words carefully and pass it through their brains before their mouths…once words are spoken they will not be forgotten and maybe, not even forgiven. Even a sincere apology can not erase the harm that words have caused. Freedom of speech allows us many wonderful things. Deliberately hurting another human being with words because one can doesn’t mean one should, or does it excuse it. Your post brings to mind the words of G.K.Chesterton : “A stiff apology is a second insult…the injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.” Thank-you!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you! You remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Turns out the opposite is true. We can heal from a broken bone, but sometimes words leave a lasting scar. I love the Chesterton quote! So true. Thanks!

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  6. >>> “‘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.”

    Right on. I’ve heard that so many times it turns my stomach – and not just from men either. John is correct. Narcissism precludes the introspection necessary for taking responsibility for one’s actions as does deep emotional insecurity, ideological self-righteousness, and other psychological states. Admitting our mistakes seems beyond many people. It’s very peculiar. What’s so difficult about saying: “Hey, I screwed-up. I apologize and will try to avoid doing that again.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are quite right, as is John. And no, I didn’t mean to imply that it was only men … I just happened, at the time I wrote the original post in 2016, to have had an experience with a man saying that, so I used it as an example. In truth, most times men are a bit more … shall we say, straightforward … than women. But I find these days that apologies are a dime a dozen, while sincere apologies are as rare as a perfect diamond. Too much arrogance in the world today.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Just discovered your blog and really enjoy your points of view and writing and your sense of humor. The apology and sentence that Brock Turner gave and got really irks me too. I just recently posted about him again on Facebook so no one forgets his name and what he looks like. I should really post the judges name and picture too.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I heard that the “apology” offered by Roseanne was actually written for her by the network. Several commentators said it didn’t even sound like something she would say. Not that she wouldn’t apologize (but then again …), but that she wouldn’t have been so verbose. Who knows? At least they kicked her off the air!

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    • I hadn’t heard that, but I’m not surprised. I imagine they were trying for damage control. Yep, she got exactly what she deserved. But, as I told another reader, I won’t be surprised if she turns up in a few weeks as a Fox News contributor!

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        • I don’t watch it either … I actually don’t watch any television, but catch all my news from the internet, for I am nearly deaf and prefer to read the news than try to keep up with closed-captioning. But I do pop over to Fox every now and then, as I like to see what ‘the enemy’ is up to 😀

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          • Yikes! You sound like me! “Huh? What did he say? Wait! Rewind so I can read that caption again.” (Getting older is the pits, isn’t it?)

            Yes, I’ve occasionally tried watching Faux News, but when they’re discussing tRumpsky, I just can’t stomach their obvious adoration of this slimy, orange-faced, lying individual, plus all their jabs at “Fake News.”

            In any case … have a GREAT weekend.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ahhhh …. I’m happy to find I am not alone!!! Yes, aging is a royal pain. My mind and body battle constantly, with my mind telling my body to “sit down and shut up … I’ve got work to you … go be tired on your own time!” 😀

              I agree with you … they are a disgusting bunch and somedays I would just like to remove those fake smiles from their faces. And what really galls me is that is the only source Trump trust as “legitimate news”. I can’t even say it without choking! 😉

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  9. To me, lots of words usually equal a lot of excuses, instead of any apology. I’d much rather hear a sincere “I’m sorry I did [that thing] that made you feel bad” AND for extra credit, “Is there anything I can do to make it feel better now?” or words to that effect, than all the blahblah where the people seem to be trying to cover every base with an excuse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. Just the two words “I’m sorry” are sufficient if said with sincerity. In fact, I don’t even need the words … show me you’re sorry. Make it up, somehow. Or just don’t do it again! Sometimes just a warm hug speaks louder than all the words in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

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