What does an apology mean to you?
Is it just a formality to you, or something you cannot move on without? Is it an acceptance of the ‘wrong’ in the light of the ‘right’, or is it a simple capitulation?
Are you someone who demands an apology for every single little thing?
When do you decide an apology is warranted and when is it not necessary?
How easy it is for you to apologize? Do you just blurt it out, or does it take you a while to swallow your pride and say the magic words?
Do you mean it when you say: “I’m sorry”? Are your apologies sincere, or do you maybe just want to get over the issue and move on?
Is there someone who could be waiting for an apology from you right now? If so, figure out if you should and if you want to apologize and go ahead and do so (if the answers are “yes”), because you might not get another chance to do so. Life is short.
Answer those questions in the security of your own head. No one will judge you, but the answers to those questions might shed some interesting light on your personal “apology” story.
The press reports that the Canadian President is planning on asking the Pope for an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the Canadian residential school system. Long story short, back in the 19th century, the Canadian government decided it was in the best interest of the aboriginal children to learn English and adopt Canadian and Christian customs in order to assimilate into the “real world”. There is a really good article explaining what happened and why. Undeniably, those kids have been torn away from their families, mistreated and denied their cultural heritage. However, we have to remember that it started in the 19th century!!! It was not in the area of now, where we all celebrate our different backgrounds and add to the cultural cauldron of the world. The Canadian government, together with the Catholic Church, believed it was better for the kids to learn the culture they were to grow up in; a culture they were going to have to work in, etc. If you read the second article, you will see that there were NUMEROUS apologies made by different Churches involved. Pope Benedict XVI, the ex-leader of the Catholic Church apologized in the past as well. There was a commission established, which gathered all the complaints of the students, and a payout was made to partially compensate for what those kids might have endured.
Now, it is beyond me to try and figure out why the apology of yet another Pope is so crucial. Why would it matter to someone who might already be dead that the Pope, who had no part in all this, apologizes? Are they so desperate for an apology that they do not mind if it comes from someone who was implicated in the wrongdoing or someone who had no ties to it? What will THIS apology achieve that the previous ones haven’t? The victims, who were alive when the trials occurred, received some kind of compensation and apologies from participating parties; what more can they want? Unfortunately, we cannot turn back time. Are they going to expect apologies from every single Pope till the end of times? Will the native people 2 centuries into the future expect compensation from other people 2 centuries into the future for what happened 4 centuries before? How is it fair? When does it end? When will it be “enough” to warrant a stop to the demands for apologies, etc?
In today’s world, words often lose their meaning. We use the word “love” interchangeably with the word “like”. We “hate” everything that we rather “dislike”. We also “apologize” without feeling regret. We often hear: “Just apologize already!” as a piece of advice, followed by an eye roll. Why should I apologize for something I have not done? Or even worse – Why should I apologize for something when it is the other person that should do the apologizing? Apologies are being DEMANDED left and right; for every minute thing, whether the crime was committed yesterday, or 5 years ago.
I realize that the way we answer is biased by our view of the apology. For me, the words: “I am sorry” should come from a person that did something wrong against me. Not their friend, or their parent, or a stranger, THEM. What is of utmost importance, the apology has to be sincere. Otherwise, it is just another word that comes out of a person’s mouth. Just a part of a word infused diarrhea. An apology is useless to me if they did not mean it. Because if they did not mean it, they were not sorry and they will say, or do whatever it is that offended me again. We apologize so mindlessly that often times, we do not really know what it is we did wrong, but the other person was offended, so we had to. When is an apology warranted? I ask to speak to someone who knows the answer to my question and you get offended, thinking I am implying that you were not doing your job (which might be correct). Why do I have to apologize for being “rude”? Why should it not be you apologizing to me for not being able to do your job properly? It seems to me that there is a very easy way out for insecure people. They just accuse you of being rude, intolerant, racist, homophobic, etc., so they can shift the blame from themselves onto you.
Our customer-centric society teaches us to apologize for anything and everything. So we do. Even if we are not sorry. What value does that apology bring to the person I apologize to?