Are you really sorry or are you just sorry that you got caught!?! Bill Clinton, Kanye West, Serena Williams, Chris Brown, Alec Baldwin, Tiger Woods and Bernie Madoff (the list goes on and on)...do any of these names ring a bell?
To me, "I'm sorry," means, "I know in my head and heart that I hurt you and I want your forgiveness and I will not do it again."
"I'm not really sorry and I'd continue to do this act if you hadn't caught me, but since you did, I'll apologize to make it look like I'm sorry so that you'll get off my case and even forgive me without me changing my ways."
What we often here is this:
Sorry, disguised as an excuse:
Example: "I’m sorry I didn’t call - I’ve been really busy.”
Translation: "Please be understanding that other things were more important than you.”
Sorry, disguised as denial:
Example: "I’m sorry you took it that way. It wasn’t what I meant."
Translation: "I think it’s too bad that you had difficulty understanding me correctly."
Example: "I’m sorry if I offended you."
Translation: "I can’t think of anything I did wrong, but if you think so, I’d be happy to apologize so I can get back in your good graces."
Sorry, disguised as blame:
Example: "I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner. Have you been feeling insecure about our relationship lately?"
Translation: "If you are upset about my not calling, the real cause is your own insecurity, not anything I did."
To REALLY apologize:
1. Only say,"I’m sorry," when you mean it and can state clearly what you did that was disrespectful.
2. You should not make excuses, by saying it wasn’t your real intention. Also don't bring up other issues that suggests that the other person contributed to the problem.
3. Decline to accept an apology that is not given sincerely. When you accept an apology, and then walk away knowing it wasn’t real, you pretend an issue is resolved while harboring resentments. Gently, firmly, without anger, you can always decline a hollow apology.
"If you believe that I simply misunderstood you, then I would rather not have an apology from you. Only if you believe you did something hurtful would I want one."
When you refuse to accept an insincere apology, you refuse to surrender to being manipulated and you hold the other person more accountable.
When I ask a student to apologize for something they have done, I very often get the response of, "But, I didn't mean to....it was a mistake." I tell them, "That is why you need to apologize."
If we can change how we give and receive apologies, we can become less defensive, grow wiser, and strengthen our relationships. We can also be a strong model for our children, teaching them that real apologies show strength of character, gain the respect of others, and have great healing power.