LC Van Savage
I’m Sorry, So Sorry
Funny isn’t it, how apologies are the Big Band-Aids these days. Seems like we humans can commit the worst of offenses but if we show remorse or say we’re sorry for doing it, whatever “it” is, we often get, or worse, expect, a sort of pass. If bad guys are in jail because they have committed egregious trespasses, they sometimes get a lighter sentence if they turn toward their accusers with a sincere, head-bowed mea culpa.
I wish to suggest that a forced apology is not an apology. It’s a form of buying freedom from the committed crime or a desperate attempt to make it all go away. I remember once being in the back car seat of a long-married couple who were rather ticked off at each other for recent past offenses. They began to verbally tear at each other while I gradually began to fear for my life since with each snarl my host’s foot pressed heavily on the accelerator. The fight was seriously escalating when finally, the husband suddenly announced that this deadlock could end amicably if, he said to his wife, “you maybe offered me an apology.”
What?? Now, the rule is to never interfere in other’s domestic pickles but there I was, stuck in that car with little to lose since my life was already in danger, so I went for it. Completely outraged at the husband’s demand, I shouted out my opinion about forced apologies not being real apologies. I’m pretty sure this commentary from me did not change the couple’s loathing of one another, but I certainly felt superior.
So you see, and I know no one’s asked, I think to just say “I’m sorry” does not fix the problem at all. I get it that we should, and we can always “act as if,” but while saying the “sorry” word may temporarily end the torture, it doesn’t fix the problem. I understand too that old rituals such as apologizing can do a lot to make things right between warring factions, but do people say “I’m sorry” because they mean it or because they just want the unpleasantness to vanish? Who knows? I sort of think the “vanish” part of that question is what happens.
We say those two words so casually these days that they have become weakened over the years. I say them far more often than I should, and I have certain relatives who apologize for absolutely everything; bad weather, the demise of dinosaurs, Brussels sprouts, acne. I’ve advised them that they needn’t say that all the time, that they are not responsible for all the world’s problems, but who listens to a 79-year-old know-it-all grannie? Not they.
I also think it’s often incorrect to ask someone’s forgiveness for something we’ve said or done. Why should they forgive us? Oh I get the whole forgiveness thing, how allegedly the forgiver and the forgivee can only move on in life if they go through that drill, but really, I think it’s rude to expect people to suffer through the anguish of having to forgive us. I mean it make us feel better, but why should we demand that?
“Please please forgive me for deliberately destroying your prize-winning roses with my Weed Whacker on that moonless night last month when you were out of town because I was annoyed with you for showing off your vulgar new Ferrari.”
No, they do not have to forgive him. Forgiving people too often lets them off the hook. But I do think the Weed Whacker guy has to say he apologizes for a transgression like that. There’s a difference in apologizing and asking forgiveness I think. We should perhaps do the former, but I opine, it’s often presumptuous to demand the latter.
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