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Zen and the Art of Real Estate Investing with Jonathan Greene

Why I Don’t Accept Apologies

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Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

I’ve always been fascinated by how we are taught to apologize. From the time we are able to understand words, our parents are always reminding us that we have to say sorry for everything that ever goes wrong. But how many times in your life have you said, “I’m sorry,” while thinking, “I’m not sorry at all” ?

Apologies aren’t about achieving forgiveness. They are usually about abdicating your responsibility for what you did. Like when Little Jimmy hits Tommy in the face with a dump truck on the playground and his mom tells him right away that he must apologize.

“Sorry,” Little Jimmy says sheepishly, having no idea or care what the word means as long as he can get back to playing and possibly do it again in four to eight seconds.

Forcing someone to apologize to you is just an attempt to make yourself feel better. It’s not sincere if they don’t do it on their own. And the act is not erased because they said two words. The act remains. The apology doesn’t.

My Approach to Apologies

When people apologize to me I usually don’t say anything. And then I am “in trouble” for not acknowledging their apology. Which seems rather odd. First, they did something to me that they feel the need to apologize for. And then when I don’t immediately grant them the freedom from their despair and wash over what they have done in an instant, then I am unaccepting?

This doesn’t add up. What if I never think about being wronged in terms of forgiveness or not? Then do I still need to accept your apology? But isn’t that for you? And wasn’t this supposed to be about me?

I don’t forgive or not forgive people. I just chalk it up in my mind and weigh it as part of our future relationship, if there will be one. I often wonder why people find this so odd. As if I am not being a good person for not allowing people to clear their conscience at my expense.

Actions Over Words

People tend to place too much value on words. I love words. I take them at face value. But I don’t take words to mean more than actions when they are concerned with the same thing.

If you tell me you are very sorry five minutes after you do something, all that tells me is that you want to delete what happened. What I really want to know is something I can’t know at this time. I want to know whether you are going to do it again when placed in the same circumstances. And until then I can’t really “rule” on your state of sorry.

People get so tied up with what people say. Sorry. I love you. But if they don’t act like that, what do those words mean? Nothing at all. Manipulative people use apologies and words to cover their actions. And somehow we fall for it.

They said sorry so they definitely won’t do it again. Until tomorrow. And then they will say sorry again. But that’s the point. Those are just words. Ingrained in us by our parents and by teachers and authority figures who wanted us to apologize first so the dispute would end, instead of opening a dialogue about the dispute.

The Real Way to Know if Someone is Actually Sorry

Anyone can apologize. But only those that are truly apologetic can immediately answer the question, “Why are you sorry?” If they start their answer with a pause and stutter, they haven’t thought about it and they aren’t sorry. They are placating you. Trying to get out of it quickly.

And their answer, for me, doesn’t guarantee absolution. It’s not sorry or not sorry, forgiveness or not. It’s another note on our human interaction. For me, it’s another piece to the puzzle and something to be considered moving forward.

If you tell me you will never do something again and then you do, what was your first apology worth? Why would I believe you when you do it again? The way I want to know if you are sorry is if you can explain to me why. But it still doesn’t grant you carte blanche to the land of now everything is fine because you said two words.

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness usually takes time. It can’t be given directly on the back of words of sorrow. Those that truly want to be forgiven because of a misdeed should be proving why they should be forgiven instead of asking for words of forgiveness.

Because just as your “I’m sorry” isn’t good enough for me, I can’t tell you that my “I forgive you” means that I truly do. Because I may think about it again later and get pissed. Because all you did was say sorry and you didn’t tell me why you are feeling so sorrowful.

So maybe it’s time to stop using words to cover our actions. Maybe it’s time to realize that when we mess up, it’s on us to prove that we are sorry — beyond words. And it’s not on the receiver to accept or reject our apology because a true apology is given because it is meant, not because of the expectation of forgiveness.

8 Responses

  1. I feel this exact way. I have been the guy that quickly accepted apologies. To me I feel that the words or actions were meant at some level. Actions will show if it was truly a mistake. Thanks for the article.

    1. Thanks, Ace. Yeah, I actually cringe at the words, "I’m sorry." I’d much rather someone tell me how they understand the issue and what they are going to do in the future. I appreciate the read.

  2. This is exactly how I feel. Thank you for putting it into words. I seldom say sorry myself and always have people pointing out and mistaking it for pride or non-acceptance of fault, b it is not. I would really much rather think hard and correct so as to never do again. For me when you make a mistake to someone it is really because you didn’t think much of them to make sure rhey don’t get hurt in the first place. I struggle with this whole accept the apology as well for the reasons you stated. I seldom meet people who understand, so thank you.

    1. My pleasure, Sarah. Thank you for reading. Apologies make me uncomfortable because I think that most people think that their apology absolves the reason for which they have to apologize and it does not.

  3. Thank you for your words, I have always felt this way but I have never been able to articulate my thoughts like this. I was hurt by my closest friend today and I couldn’t find a way to explain to them, that while I appreciated their gesture of saying "I’m sorry", it doesn’t fix what they did. I want to show this to them but I’m worried I will offend them. At least I have the words to express my feeling next time.

  4. This was thought provoking and I like that about this piece. We are taught to apologize quickly and not to take the time to really sit with our actions and think about if we truly are sorry and if so what would we change. This approach would take more time and might allow for an apology in deeds where that would make sense. It also may have the potential to shed more truth and light on both parties nature and what are we as an individual and a union willing to accept. People will make mistakes and fail us how we handle it on either end is telling about character, acceptance and control.

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