From repentant sports stars tearfully apologising to their fans on the telly for some scandalous behaviour to people close to you making amends for something they did wrong, I believe that we all have the innate ability to tell when an apology is either fake or genuine and heartfelt.
Somehow, the latter ones just ring true on a heart or gut level.
But then there’s the former kind, the apology of convenience, that doesn’t quite sit right.
I’ve come to refer to these as Band-aid apologies because they’re usually dispensed by someone whose answer to healing the wound their words and actions have caused is to simply put a patch on it.
You Say Sorry Just For Show
When these are offered to me, particularly from someone whose trespasses have been especially harsh or unwarranted, I hold them to a different level of accountability.
My stance is simple and straightforward :
“You may keep your apology. I’d like an explanation instead.”
There is a lesson here, Dear Young Person.
Because, with all due respect to Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin, sorry seems to me to be the easiest word for the kind of person who would prefer to let bygones be bygones without having to be answerable for their actions. And if their offences are particularly heinous, then I refuse to simply accept glib apologies or shallow reparations.
I need to know the ‘why’. But most importantly, I need them to know it!
Let me elaborate…
A few years ago, a good friend of mine (I’ll call him Fred) met and fell in love with a woman after almost a decade of being adamantly single. For a bit of background, Fred had lost his last partner to illness and was understandably reluctant to put himself out there, romantically and emotionally speaking, again. We were all delighted that he’d decided to take a leap once more because Fred is a wonderful man with a great capacity for love. He’s the quintessence of what you would call relationship material. Things got pretty serious between Fred and his lady after a few months and they were soon talking about moving in together and even a possible engagement. Then one day, quite out of the blue, Freddie’s girlfriend dumped him – citing that the relationship wasn’t really working for her. It later emerged that Fred wasn’t the only guy she was seeing and that she was actively playing the field on internet dating sites throughout the duration of her relationship with Fred. She later fessed up and apologised – and being the gentleman he is, Fred graciously accepted her apology and went back to being single.
But here’s the trouble with gracious.
I don’t judge Fred’s ex. Couples break up for all kinds of reasons that the friends aren’t necessarily privy to. Nor would it have been my place to ask her what the hell she was thinking making serious talk when she clearly wasn’t sure if Fred was the one – but it irked me even more that Fred accepted her apology without an explanation, like it was just one of those things.
She seemed on the whole to be a decent enough person, but clearly something from the inner recesses of her unconscious mind informed this cad-like, duplicitous behaviour. What if there was a pattern of catch and release relationships with this obviously troubled soul? Maybe this was her MO? And if so, shouldn’t she be called on it before she inflicts the same dysfunctional behaviour on the next unsuspecting schmo who falls for her?
I have to say I’ve encountered so many flaky men and women like this over the years that it hardly qualifies as an unusual type of deception of self and others – but what is surprising is the willingness of the injured parties to forgive and forget without so much as a, “WTF just happened and while you’re at it…”
Care To Explain Yourself Twinkle-Toes?
Now this isn’t a post about all the playas and their trusting victims – it’s about the significance of calling on people to account for their actions and explain the whys and wherefores. Because it’s only by doing so that we bring about a dialogue that might help them to arrive at a better understanding of why they behave in the ways they do. The trick is to challenge them on superficial answers and excuses and usher them, baby step at a time towards their own truth or what was really going on in their hearts and minds at the time.
And with serious offences that you suspect stem from hostility that’s been brewing for a while don’t, whatever you do, let them get away with the old “Gee, I don’t know” or “It must have been the alcohol” or “I was having a bad day” cop-out. Those factors are the fuses, not the explosives.
You have to clear the air – or history will likely repeat itself.
And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be less likely to become ‘repeat offenders’.
I felt prompted to write this post because, as fate would have it, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of a number of formal apologies of late. In most instances they were from people who’d lashed out at me in the past or in recent times and wanted to make amends – which I appreciated, but only up to a point.
You see, knowing all too well that these rants were actually projections of their own personal frustrations and repressed feelings, I made it plain that my forgiveness was contingent upon them acknowledging what was behind their attacks instead of the apologies themselves.
It might sound to you like retribution or even bitterness on my part but in truth my rationale is to defuse any tensions or animosity that may still exist on their sides through frank discussion.
Disappointingly though, no reasons or justifications have been forthcoming.
In fact, one of my past vilifiers added further insult to injury by claiming, quite incredulously, to have absolutely no memory of what they said or did – this, after I shared excerpts from their original vitriolic email vomit-fest in my response. How wonderfully convenient! So, what were you apologising for again?
Sadly, all of this just raises doubts about the sincerity and authenticity of the apologies as well as the motives of those offering them.
And while I do recognize that people deserve a second chance or that they should at least be given the opportunity to put things right, I’m really not interested in bogus Band-aid apologies.
If you really want to heal a deep wound, you’ve got to clean it out first.
Until then, you can just stick it!