Why Apologies Aren’t As Valuable

I’m sorry.

Two words, just two words, that can contain a large amount of meaning. They can mend broken bridges, heal past wounds, and start you back on the path of regaining trust. There is a lot of power in those two words but we’ve started to rob them of their meaning.

It’s too easy to apologize today.  If you offend someone, just throw out a quick “I’m sorry, blah, blah, blah, fill in the blank” and you can check it off the list.  You’re not required to be specific, no extensive details need to be involved. You don’t even have to be sincere.  All you have to do is say, “I’m sorry”, and be done with it.  Not only that but if someone still takes offense for what you did, you can fall back on this claim, “I said I was sorry!”

Sports players, comedians, celebrities, the “popular” in society have perfected the written apology.  They, or some official representative of theirs, gets up to the podium with a crisp, one-page letter and rattles off some canned apology letter that a robot could have scripted.  Finish reading, wipe away whatever tears you might or might not have conjured up, hug your family flanking both sides of you, and exit stage right.  It’s clean, it’s sanitized, and the cameras are there just eating it up.

New flash:  There’s a problem with that!  There’s no accountability, no promise for change in the future.  When you apologize it’s implied that you’re going to work at not making that same mistake again.  When we’ve lost the sincerity and commitment for change that comes with a real apology, we’re doing nothing more than checking an apology off the list so we can get people off our backs.

Let’s bring meaning back to apologies.  Put some thought into why you’re sorry.  Internalize why you have your regret.  Make a plan in your mind how to prevent that same mistake going forward.  Be sincere and resist the urge to quick-draw a half-hearted “I’m sorry” whenever it’s convenient.

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