We know that forgiveness is a central tenet of all relationships. Our willingness to apologize, or to accept someone else’s apology, acknowledges and accepts the occasional or frequent missteps in our daily interactions with others.
In recent months I have been thinking about the importance of forgiveness, of how it shapes our day-to-day experiences. I have been paying closer attention to situations in which people apologize, and especially to the words they use to express regret. Increasingly, I have observed the non-apology, that is, an apology that begins with the words “I’m sorry, but…”
In my book, “I’m sorry, but…” is not an apology. It is an explanation, as if explaining WHY the hurtful words or actions were expressed makes them less hurtful or disturbing. The goal of the explanation seems to be a clarification that the words or actions were warranted. At its worst, the “I’m sorry, but…” apology shifts the blame elsewhere and refuses to accept responsibility for hurtful words or actions.
The genuineness of an apology truly matters. If it is not a heartfelt expression of regret, it reflects an obvious disregard for someone’s hurt or disappointment. Saying “I am sorry,” and truly meaning it, can begin to heal a situation rather than making it worse.
I am committing to mindful apologies and to understanding why no one deserves anything less.
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