I don’t know a single human being who has never done something or said something that hurt another person. I also don’t know anyone who has never been hurt by something someone did to them. In order for the hurts to be mended, our society has the ritual of the “apology.” In different cultures it may take on different forms, in pre-WWII Japanese society an “apology” might have included the offending person committing suicide to show their sincerity, but in Western society today it is a verbal exchange but not only a verbal exchange.
What is an “apology”? Is it just saying “I’m sorry?” or is it more? An apology is an expression of remorse for something you’ve done wrong, and occasionally serves as a request for forgiveness, as well
As the philosopher Nietzsche says “It doesn’t matter to me that you lied, what bothers me is that I now cannot believe you.”
Elizabeth Kupefman on her blog defines an apology this way http://www.expressivecounseling.com/the-real-apology/?repeat=w3tc
Here is the how you give a Real Apology:1. I’m sorry.2. It was my fault.3. How can I make it up to you?This is why none of the “I’m sorrys” you’ve received felt good or were the least bit healing – because the necessary remorse, responsibility and amends were missing. What is so great about the Real Apology, is that once you know about it, you will never have to endure a fake apology ever again.I recommend you teach it to your closest family members when you are not in a fight. It’s especially good for children – It’s the instant cure for “I said I was sorrrry!!!” (Picture eye-rolling and a disgusted face -actually some adults say it that way too.) The next time you get the mean or insincere “I’m sorry,” usually followed by the anger because how dare you not “forgive” them. You can now simply say that you appreciate their apology, but that it is not a “Real Apology” and teach them what the Real Apology is. Then, it is up to them whether or not they are actually sorry depending on whether they give you the Real Apology or not and you will know if they are sorry or not.
I would add to that three things that Elizabeth says constitute a “real apology”
that the person recognize that they had hurt you by their actions. To me the acknowledgment of the person had hurt you is a necessary component to a “real apology”
Own the mistake as wholly your own, without sharing the blame with anyone else, and without presenting mitigating circumstances. Admit that you were wrong emphatically, unreservedly, and as soon as possible.
In addition, a fifth component would be “I will never do it again.”
Elizabeth’s description of the eye rolling and “I said I’m sorrrry!” makes me laugh because I think of all the fake apologies I have received and been expected to accept by pretending it never happened, knowing full well that there was no sincerity in the “I’m sorry.”
It kind of makes me have a visual picture in my head of someone speaking to the person who had gotten mad and burned down their house, and the arsonist says to the home owner, “But I said I was sorry!”
Too many times we are taught as children that when a person says the “magic words” of “I’m sorry” that we are required to trust them again and “forget about” whatever it was that they did to us.
To me now, I no longer emotionally accept fake apologies in which the person does not acknowledge that what they did was wrong, that they truly are sorry, that they acknowledge the hurt I received, that they want to make it up as much as possible, and that they will never repeat that behavior again.
Depending on the relationship I have with that person, depending on the gravity of the wrong that they have done, and other circumstances, I may accept that apology (no longer feeling bitter toward them for what they did) and eventually restore trust, but instant restoration of trust is not going to happen where I am concerned.
The “best indicator of future behavior is past behavior” and so, keeping that in mind, when someone has treated me ill, lied to me, etc. it will take some time for me to trust that person again.
If the gravity of the offense done by the person is very high, there may be no restoration of a relationship no matter how sincere they are in their apology. We are not required to “forgive and forget” all offenses just because someone does sincerely apologize. Unfortunately, many times children are taught at home and in school that they are required to “forgive and forget” when someone says “I’m sorry.”
In dealing with people who are offenders (incarcerated or not) we should be aware that the gravity of their offenses should make us aware that we should not instantly restore trust to that person, even if we do think their apology is sincere, but expect a change in behavior that persists over time. If the person who is the offender is someone we love and we want to believe in their sincerity, we must still stand back and watch how they act, not what they say. I don’t know who first said it but the quote about “when someone shows you what they are, believe them, the first time” is a good rule to go by in restoring trust to someone who has behaved in abusive or dishonest ways.