I love that quote. It’s something Gibbs on NCIS says and I love that show (well, 1st 6 seasons or so).
But you’re saying, “Apologies are nice! It takes strength to apologize!”
Yes and no. If it’s a real apology then yes. If it’s you trying to shield yourself then no.
Most apologies we give and get are the latter.
My theory is there are 3 types of sorry.
1) I am sorry for what I did, I recognize it was wrong, and I will never do it again. And I am also sorry for the damage to you that it did.
Sounds good, right? Yep, this is the real apology. This is the exception to the never apologize rule and it is the most rare.
2) I’m sorry you feel that way.
This is the I’m sorry you’re mad about something, I’m sorry I hurt you, I’m sorry you think I did something wrong.
Otherwise known as the I’m sorry I got caught. The I’m sorry I have to deal with the fallout. The I am sorry that you and your emotions are making me feel guilty.
The please don’t let everyone find out because it makes me look like a dick. The please let me apologize so I don’t have to feel like a dick.
The please forgive me sorry.
Ent, nope. Try again, cupcake.
This is the one we see most often when you’re in arguments in a relationship, any kind of relationship. This is where the person doesn’t actually think they did anything wrong, they just don’t want to deal with the consequences of it so they’ll say sorry to try to cut those off.
3) The reflexive or social sorry.
This is the one we see most often. This is where you say something or do something small, realize it’s not correct, and say sorry to actually mean you acknowledge that. As opposed to you’re sorry about a moral wrong, you’re acknowledging an incorrectness.
This is the one Gibbs usually calls people on. They say something incorrect, he corrects, they say sorry, he says the don’t apologize, and they say sorry and then catch themselves and say right or okay.
This one is outside a moral wrong, which is why I don’t think of it as a real apology. This one isn’t bad morally to do, it’s just a different definition of sorry that is not an apology sorry.
So I’m talking about the first two.
The first is you giving the apology because you hope it will help the other person heal the damage you did.
There is no plea for forgiveness. There is nothing in there asking anything from the other person. And there is nothing in there putting any of the blame on them.
Which brings us to the second one.
The selfish one.
The I’m sorry you’re mad apology places the blame at the feet of the other person.
And puts the burden of making it better on them.
It is you trying to duck the consequences of your actions, be they real world backlash or just emotional guilt.
It is a selfish plea for redemption. It’s not an I did bad, it’s a you reacted bad. It is telling them that they need to make you feel better by forgiving you. And that they are the jerk if they don’t because you apologized.
If there’s an ulterior motive to your sorry, you’re just making the problem worse. You’re poisoning the relationship more.
Because you are putting your failures on them. So they feel they should accept it and move on, but at the same time, still have the negative emotions you caused and are confused about that.
I have a story or two to illustrate this point that’ll probably be the next post.
For now, remember that apologies, real ones, are selfless, and the selfish pleas for the other person to do something for you are weak, and toxic to a relationship, and they add up.
So before you apologize, ask yourself: am I sorry about what I did, or am I sorry I have to face the consequences?
Good day and good mental health.