I will admit, many an apology has crossed my lips begrudgingly, full of snarkiness and lacking authenticity. This usually happened when the apology was directed toward a sibling as commanded by our mother. But the practice was part of growing up. We learned the importance of saying the words, “I am sorry,” as the first step toward reconciliation and the way to begin to set a relationship right.
I am fascinated by Japanese culture, where apologizing is more than simply expressing you are sorry. Apologizing is about politeness and being courteous, hallmarks of this Eastern country and the means to achieve a harmonious society. Even ego-driven business leaders, politicians, and celebrities value the importance of apologizing as a way to rebuild trust and strengthen connections with customers, constituents, or fans. Japanese apologies go beyond language and generally include a formal bow as a sign of respect. The more robust an apology, the deeper and longer the bow.
There are some people who simply refuse to apologize because they believe an apology is equivalent to an ego-injuring admission of guilt, one step short of groveling. These unapologetic types may also get a power rush by holding back on making a simple apology, establishing their control. Whatever the egocentric motivation for their apology aversion, they have missed the whole point. Apologies are not about admitting guilt or appearing weak. The primary purpose for an apology is simply to convey that you care.
I’m a diehard movie fan, and countless catchphrases from the silver screen find their way into my everyday conversations. There is one movie line, however, that has always bugged me: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Though I adore the 1970 film Love Story, this makes no sense whatsoever. “It is outrageous, egregious, preposterous,” to quote a favorite Seinfeld episode.
You don’t have to love someone—or to even like them—for an apology to be appropriate if you have offended them, with or without intention. Being a good human being means caring about someone else’s feelings. And when you have hurt someone you love, it is imperative that you apologize, with sincerity and fitting contrition.
An offer of a sincere apology can be a soul cleansing, relationship-restoring experience. Hollywood notwithstanding, “Love means always remembering to say you’re sorry.”
I’m here if you need me. Until then, y’all behave.