The Ethics of Apologies

[Note: I am sick this fine February day. Instead of writing a brand spanking new blog post, I am posting a piece I originally wrote in 2009, before I met The Quiet One. It should be noted that he apologizes quite nicely, when absolutely, positively, unequivocally necessary.]

Ah, the movie apology. He stands in the rain outside her house, waxing poetic a 15 minute long apology that causes her to run to him and kiss him full on the lips as the credits roll. Happily ever after. Umhm.

The reality apology has a much different feel to it, mostly because it doesn’t have background music, men don’t speak for more than 14 seconds at a time, and no one ever loves anyone enough to stand in the rain for any reason.

I’ve heard my share of piss poor apologies of late. Upon further review of said apologies, I’ve realized that some of them don’t really even qualify as apologies at all, falling into the “I’m not sorry I did it, but I’m sorry I came off as an asshole for doing it” category. Therefore, I am developing a set of standards, a code of ethics, if you will, in the area of apologetic speech.

1. If you can stuff your sorrys in a sack, I don’t want to hear them.
If you have apologized for the same thing multiple times, so many times that if they were indeed stuffable, I would have to haul them around in a Macy’s bag, then NO. Don’t bother.

2. “I’m sorry” is not a sentence in and of itself.
“I’m sorry for…[insert grievous action here],” is a complete thought. Otherwise, I’m positive you have absolutely no clue what it is you are supposed to be feeling sorry for. Be a man. If you know what you did, and you know it was wrong, say it. If you don’t know what you did, ask. If you know what you did and you don’t think it was wrong, what’s your point?

3. An apology is a promise to NOT purposely repeat the mistake.
Offer it up, and you’d better be prepared to pinky swear, on your mama’s grave, poke a needle in your eye kind of promise, that you won’t be standing in front of me or someone else a week or a year or a decade from now apologizing again. Apologies, when heartfelt and pure, will change your life. I cheated on a boyfriend once. Once. I felt so horrible that I had hurt him, that I have never – EVER – cheated on another guy. Never will. I was so truly sorry that even at the age of 14, that apology turned into a personal vow.

4. “Sorry ’bout your luck” should never be confused with an apology.
It’s a smart ass remark. I’ve used it. Sarcasm negates any apologetic quality of the word “sorry.”

5. Regret and shame are not apologetic substitutes.
Regret and shame are feelings experienced when you have done something wrong. But that’s all they are – very egocentric feelings. An apology, a true apology, is an effort to make amends, to make ME feel better, not to make YOU feel better.

In another movie scene, guy apologizes to girl, and she says “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” This is Relationship 101. It’s something I have told my sons repeatedly in hopes that they will be better men. If you have a moral decision to make, think about if and to whom you will have to apologize in the end. If you know you’re going to have to beg for forgiveness for doing something, then don’t do it. Easy button.

It’s my hope that by creating some type of ethical standards, my frequency of receiving worthless crap apologies will decrease and that my acceptance of worthless crap apologies will cease. If not, then sorry ’bout my luck.

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