Is It Just Me? The elements of appropriate apologies

Published on Saturday, 4 November 2017 16:44 - Written by NELSON CLYDE,

One of the consequences of wrong behavior is the need for an appropriate apology.

There have been some feigned apologies in the public discourse of late which necessitate some review.

It is possible our society has so fully equivocated behaviors and their associated consequences we may have lost our way. The disgusting fake apology initially issued by Kevin Spacey last week to an accuser literally made me wonder if he was in character as Frank Underwood, a character devoid of character.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Such a statement is not an apology. In fact, it is a subterfuge - a smokescreen to avoid a true apology.

You can’t be sorry for the way someone feels.

Or sometimes people may try the old, “If I’ve offended you, which I did not intend, I’m terribly sorry.” What a load of hooey.

When it comes to intentions, we must remember we cannot really discern such things. Only actions are discernible. Therefore, to be told intentions are different than actions takes us right back to hooey.

A great book I read once asserted intentions minus actions equal squat.

When my kids were little, there were a lot of parenting classes and books to take in on how to bring up kids the right way. One of the most compelling concepts I encountered was a formula for appropriate apologies. It went something like this:

I’m sorry for (calling you a dummy).

It was wrong for me to (call you that).

Will you please forgive me?

I won’t do it again.

The distinguishing principle here is the difference between regret (feeling bad about getting caught) and repentance (a true desire to restore a relationship).

Even the smallest child may stumble and pause over the part that asserts they were wrong. No one likes to admit they are/were wrong if they can avoid it.

If you have the opportunity to influence the life of a child and show them how to come to true repentance, it is one of the great services you could offer in their life.

It is also one of the great non-negotiables in the parental contract.

If you try, it you’ll never regret it.