It often starts at an early age – two children are out on a playground insulting one another for some reason. The words get harsher and turn into flying baby fists. After prying the two apart, the authority figure calms the children, hears their stories, then demands the two apologize to one another. Usually, the apologies are lackluster. With clear vitriol and perhaps even future plans to pound on each other some more out of the eyesight of prying adults, the angry children mumble insincere apologies to one another, are sometimes forced to find kinder and more sincere-sounding ways to give those apologies (“Say it like you mean it!”), then go to their separate life corners. I know I have been this child a few times and it leaves me wondering if the apology is really necessary.
Granted, exchange of cruel words and physical blows is not a good way for anyone, child or adult, to spend time. If I had my way, life would only be about discovering pleasures, loving each other, existing in harmony, and randomly breaking out into choreographed dances everyone inexplicably knows how to do without having practiced as a group. But alas, life isn’t like that at all. Conflict is very real and it is constant. One’s idea of honesty can lead to greater understanding or incense others, which can lead to some sort of bash fest. Sometimes, just feelings get bashed and other times, faces do.
But whether or not the conflict is true, false, mean, or somewhat mild, what is it about human nature that requires an apology to be made whole? What makes folks so willing to accept an unfelt apology for being willfully wronged? When fighting over Legos and getting hit in the face, a mumbled, “Sorry,” has never done anything for me but make me more irritated.
Then there’s the gracious acceptance one is expected to give after receiving a half-hearted forced apology. One is wronged on purpose, the perpetrator is “caught”, and suddenly, one has to become some sort of Mother Theresa/Ghandi type of figure and be willing to turn all the cheeks to accommodate an insincere apology so as not to look like a douche. What if we all just stopped that? What if the next time someone comes with the fake apology, we all just tell them it isn’t real and therefore isn’t accepted? What if nobody was forced to make the fake apology in the first place? Wouldn’t that make things better?
I suppose my real issue with forced remorse is the fact authority figures are helping lay the foundation for the way so many of us lie about the way we feel and the things we do as adults. Some folks plot and scheme, enact their evil plans, then apologize to beg off on responsibility. Other times, the aggrieved accepts the apology with a quick, “It’s ok,” when it is far from “ok,” because it’s easier to avoid discussing feelings than it is to confront matters.
Though I believe heartfelt remorse and apologies are definitely called for in relationships centered around love, mutual respect, and professionalism, there are some times when one just isn’t sorry. Why do we insist on forcing her to pretend to be otherwise? I can say I have never appreciated a reluctant apology and certainly not the kind that drips with some sort of tone that let’s me know the words are being uttered under duress. These days, politicians and other public figures, parents, lovers, and friends have found a way to give the half assed apology. You know, it’s the kind during which a person apologizes for the way the aggrieved party feels. “I’m sorry you felt that way about me punching you in the stomach,” OR “I’m sorry if you thought me calling you a fat, jobless, hopeless bump on a log meant I do not think you’re smart.” These sorts of apologies are the worst to me. Somehow, folks find a way to utter the words, “I’m sorry,” and blame the person they wronged at the same time. It is cowardly and insulting and I prefer silence over that. I can accept a person feeling his behavior was justified and needs no apology before I can accept one that means nothing to the person who uttered it.
At this point, I prefer the “Sorry, not sorry,” method. It is honest, it is real, and it is sums up everything. It says, “Though I respect the fact you feel uncomfortable, wronged, or hurt in some way by what I said or did, I have to be honest in telling you I am completely okay with my choice and respectfully decline to make any apologies for it.” The idea of it all seems so freeing! No more faux apologies and forced feelings. No more resentment for being made to accept an apology that wasn’t heartfelt and no more masking of ill-will. Everyone gets to be his or herself. Of course, the downside is the fact there are always consequences for one’s actions, so one has to understand there may be some hell to pay for being unapologetic. I, however, am willing to accept that possibility for the opportunity to change the mamby pamby way we are socialized from an early age to lie to ourselves and others for the sake of appearances. And you know what? I’m not sorry.