A recent Facebook apology from my teenage son: “I’m sorry but I have nothing to do with that.”
And Trump’s apology for posting an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz: “If I had it to do again, I probably wouldn’t have sent it. I didn’t think it was particularly bad, but I probably wouldn’t have sent it.”
And an apology from the moderator and executive director of my denomination: “We apologize to . . . anyone . . . who may have gotten the impression that Executive Board leaders were not fully committed to justice and healing for victims [of sexual abuse].”
I’ve always thought that apologizing was a pretty simple task, one we learn at a young age: “Joanna, tell the dog you’re sorry for dragging him around the house in a pillow case.” “I’m sorry, Fluffy.”
That’s it. That’s an apology. Pretty straight forward. But apparently beyond the grasp of many people.
So, as a public service, here are ten ways to tell that your apology is not really an apology:
- The word “but” comes after the word “sorry.”
- The words “that you” come after the word “sorry.”
- Really, if anything but a period comes after the word “sorry,” you’re likely not apologizing.
- You list excuses for your pitiful actions.
- You use the passive voice. (“It is regrettable that mistakes were made.”–Not a real apology.)
- You claim that the person you are apologizing to is partly (if not completely) to blame for the horrible thing you did to them.
- You use words like “seem” and “probably” and “appeared” and “might” and . . . you get the idea.
- You mutter your apology to the ground while your mom stands by, glaring at you with her arms crossed.
- You pretend that your position of power and privilege makes you less responsible for your actions because it’s so difficult and complicated for someone in your position to negotiate all of their responsibilities—rather than acknowledging that it is exactly your power and privilege that make you that much more responsible for the damage you have caused and the damage you have failed to prevent.
- You have apologized for the same damn thing over and over and over again without actually changing your behavior in the slightest.
If you are having trouble crafting a sincere apology, I offer you this template from my younger self. You will need to replace the bracketed words to fit your own situation:
Dear [Fluffy]. I am truly sorry that [I put you in a pillowcase and pulled you around the house]. I am sure you did not like that and I should not have done it. Next time I will [put my stuffed dog in the pillow case] instead and give you a [dog bone].