The Elements of an Apology

Apparently, in this day and age, people have forgotten how to properly apologize for their misdeeds. We now live in an era where Ego and Hubris have reached the point that offense is not an objective thing, but in the eye of the offended, who CLEARLY must be delusional, since we can all do no wrong. Well, others can do wrong, and when they do, they MUST be compelled to make an apology. But since they are subject to this same attitude, they only mouth the words that will get other people off their backs.

This leads to a lot of shitty non-apologies that never accomplish what a public apology is meant to do, which is serve as a form of social correction for doing wrong.

There are four things that an apology should contain.

First, and most commonly absent is an admission of responsibility. Most non-apologies entirely omit the role of the offender, and entirely put the burden of the offense on the offended. Sometimes they barely admit the existence of the offended. You can pick this out easily by the presence of the word “If”.

For example, compare these two apologies:

“I’m sorry you got hurt.”
“I’m sorry I hurt you.”

The first, you will note, is not actually an apology. The offender doesn’t even appear as the actor of the verb hurt. There is no responsibility taken. The second is an apology of a most basic sort.

The “If” implies a lot that is left unsaid. So let’s try to make it explicit.

“I’m sorry if anyone got hurt.”
(But if nobody got hurt, then I’m not sorry at all, as I think I did nothing wrong).

“I’m sorry if anyone feels offended.”
(You feeling offended is regrettable. I was hoping you’d be driven to suicide by my cutting characterization of you.) or (You FEEL offended, and your feelings don’t really count. You weren’t actually offended, because I did nothing wrong in calling your entire bloodline retarded mongoloids. But if any mentally differently-abled or Downs Syndrome sufferers are out there, obviously I wasn’t referring to you. Just using your stereotype as an insult. I’m sure you don’t mind, it was entirely justified.)

The next thing an apology should include is a recognition that the behavior being apologized for is wrong.

“I realize now that shooting a gun randomly into the air is wrong, whether anyone gets hurt or not is immaterial.”

Excuses and rationalizations have no place in an apology.

“But everybody else was doing it. I thought it would be a harmless prank. It really shouldn’t matter to anyone. Why is everyone acting all serious?”

Third, It should include a promise to never engage in the bad behavior again.

“It was a stupid thing to do, and I will never do anything like that again.”

And finally, optionally, it should include a statement of what measures will be taken to prevent a repetition of the offense.

“And just to make sure of it, I am giving up the business of Billy-Bob the Sixgun Birthday Clown”

So, can you think of any recent apologies you’ve heard that don’t contain even one of these essential elements?