General Question

longgone's avatar

How and why do you apologize?

Asked by longgone (14599points) 5 days ago

Imagine you did something very wrong. Let’s say you hurt someone, intentionally and repeatedly. This person could be a close friend, a relative, or a partner.

When do you think apologies are appropriate? Do you say anything special, apart from “I’m sorry”? Do you send flowers, write a card, etc.? Why is apologizing even important to you?

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21 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Hurt someone intentionally over and over? Why would that happen? I’m not even sure there is a good enough apology for intentionally hurting someone repeatedly.

I apologize for different reasons. Here are a few:
If I upset someone because of a misunderstanding.
If I hurt someone with my actions.
If I want to clear the air if a relationship has been strained.

I usually do it in person. Sometimes I write a card or a note. I’ve never sent flowers for an apology, but it’s a nice touch if that is something the receiver will appreciate. I would feel like the person is trying too hard if flowers were sent to me. It would feel overdone or false, but I am not a flower person. It’s like that joke Gracie Allen told where she says she hopes her husband cheats again, because she wants the matching platter to the serving bowl her husband bought her the last time he cheated. Or, however the joke goes.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I don’t send cards, or anything. But I’ll try to get a face to face, and make sure that I cover exactly why I am regretful, and try not to repeat whatever I did…

I accidentally cut a guy off in traffic like yesterday, saw him in a gas station and apologized. Some people don’t care if they were in the wrong, and want to escalate it. That’s just two wrongs…

raum's avatar

I grew up with a parent who viewed apologizing as a sign of weakness. And asking for an apology from a parent was seen as impertinence.

As a parent, I want my children to understand that parents are human. They make mistakes too. And if you make mistakes, you need to own up to them.

Parents shouldn’t be exceptions to the rules. They should be modeling them.

Yet at the same time, I’m also trying to teach my oldest not to apologize for everything. There’s this weird internalized culture where women over apologize for everything.

It can be difficult to find that balance.

gondwanalon's avatar

I have never hurt someone intentionally.

If I hurt someone unintentionally I say I’m sorry ASAP and explain how I screwed up and ask how can I correct the situation.

I’m probably too apologetic.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

If I had done that intentionally and repeatedly I would not bother apologizing since I would probably not mean it or I’d be likely to do it again. In such a case I would distance myself from that person as there would be no point in sustaining a strained relationship.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I make solid eye contact, use the word sincerely, and depending on the depth of my transgressions, I may ask if there is a way to prove my sincerity. That, rather than how can I make it up to you, because you can’t make it up to someone when you have wronged them. that way they aren’t setting a price on their self pride, rather, you are proving, or attempting to represent sincerity.

longgone's avatar

Thanks to all those who answered so far. It’s very interesting to learn about different perspectives on this.

In my family, apologies were infrequent. We didn’t necessarily apologize for bumping into each other, interrupting, being a little late – but always whenever anyone got hurt. I feel like we maybe had more “ritualized” apologies than other families. My dad, for example, would often write a letter or at least a note. My mum would hug people and offer a special treat.

To clarify for those who are wondering about repeatedly and deliberately hurting somebody else: I’m thinking of a situation like an abusive parent apologizing to their grown-up child. I’m not assuming we have a lot of abusive people on Fluther – that’s why I said ‘imagine’.

canidmajor's avatar

In my family, my abusive mother was the queen, so I learned early that an “apology” was an excuse to point out that they weren’t wrong or remorseful, but that you are foolish for thinking an apology is owed. The “I’m sorry, but you…” line was prevalent.
I was a bit older when I learned that an actual apology involves honest remorse, and is given with the understanding that it might not be accepted, and the recipient is not obligated to forgive.

As for the example of intentionally hurting someone over and over as an adult parent apologizing to a grown child, I just don’t buy that there is remorse there, I would not put stock in such an apology.

I apologize if I feel I have wronged someone. I would often apologize to my child when I was in the wrong or behaved badly.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor I wonder if all adult children feel that way if they were abused?

That means to me it is impossible for the parent to apologize. I see these adults pick apart the parent’s attempt to apologize so that it’s never sufficient. They don’t word it right, don’t add necessary words specifically outlining what they did wrong, don’t show enough remorse, they try to explain why they did what they did, etc. Maybe it’s futile and impossible. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, because of some things in my own family.

Do you think that’s the case, that the parent need not apologize over and over, because the adult child won’t believe it anyway? Or, maybe after a few attempts the parent should give up if their child isn’t inclined to accept the apology? I don’t want to say the parent should never bother trying to apologize.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie, In my experience, and the experience of most in the groups in which I participate, the type of personality that intentionally and repeatedly hurts their child, physically and/or emotionally, is incapable of the remorse required for a sincere and authentic apology. Even if said parent does indeed feel remorse, why would the adult offspring believe it? And perhaps more importantly, why should the parent get a pass after doing so much damage?

After I estranged myself from my mother, people often asked me how I would feel if she wanted to apologize, and my feeling is “too little, too late”, and I wouldn’t believe it anyway.
I learned to not trust her apologies from a very early age, why would I believe there is remorse now?

I may be misreading your tone here, but it seems that you are having some sympathy for the abusive parent, maybe you know some parents who are attempting to apologize to their children, but let me again use @longgone’s words: intentionally and repeatedly in context with treatment of raising a child.

Honest remorse is the key.

canidmajor's avatar

And the reason that the adult children pick apart and over analyze the apologies is that they want so badly to believe that the apology is sincere, because they (we) want so much to be loved by the parent, a behavior learned from infancy. It doesn’t really go away, that feeling, especially if the abuse has been covert and sly and manipulative.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor To clarify, I don’t think the adult child should anything. I think it is completely understandable that they don’t believe the apology if the history with the parent apologizing is then they go on doing the abusive behavior again. I think too little too late is perfectly rational. I’m not judging your feelings on this. I think there is various levels of abuse though. A parent who consistently hits their child or sexually abuses them, even if the parent has some sort of epiphany later in life, I have little empathy for their ignorance or failure to realize that what they do is harmful.

I was truly interested in your POV, I was not questioning it to imply you are wrong or too harsh, but rather, I was questioning you to understand.

In my own family the abuse, I am not even sure that is the correct term to use, was failure to handle some difficult situations well, and a lot of constant screaming and yelling in the house. My parents do wish they had handled those situations better (it is only 2 or 3 specific instances) and they do understand the yelling was not a good thing. There was never physical or sexual abuse in my family. Still, for my sister it impacted her a lot, and she seems to react like someone who has been regularly abused, because for her I think it was abusive. It felt abusive, and so it was.

I don’t expect her to react any particular way, but I do know my parents truly regret some of their actions (I think most parents do) and especially my father wishes my sister could move forward and forgive him, for her sake, but also for himself, he wants to be forgiven. My sister thinks his motive is only selfish, but it isn’t I know it isn’t.

BOTH my sister and my father say what happened affects how she interacts in relationships, and both of them wish that was not the case, that it could be healed. I hear both sides from both people, without being able to really fully tell the other, because it would be a breach of keeping a confidence. It’s very difficult for me, but that I am not trying to complain for myself, rather, it Is just difficult to know and watch. I do have empathy for my parents and also my sister. My dad is difficult still in some ways (many parents are) and so it is difficult to be with him and not have some old feelings surface, so I understand why my sister rather avoid him. It’s complicated, but mostly I was trying to understand your point of view.

My dad loves my sister, I don’t have one doubt about that. If she thinks that is not the case then she is wrong, but sometimes love is not enough, so I think it is moot maybe, I understand that too. Even I felt my dad’s love was more conditional when I was a child, rather than the unconditional love expected for a parent to give a child. As an adult I feel my perception as a child was wrong, it wasn’t conditional from him. It does feel like he is constantly trying to be manipulative, so it is interesting to me you use that word. He swears he isn’t trying to be manipulative, and I can’t be inside his head, but I tell him it feels that way to me.

My sister is a different person than me, I know I can’t expect her to respond the same as I do.

Thanks for your answer. I apologize if my wording came across as though I was questioning your reaction as unfair or wrong, that was not my intent.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie, It is all about perception, indeed. My one sister was only ever praised and lauded by our mother for literally everything she did, so doesn’t understand why I went No Contact. My other sister was simply mostly ignored by our mother, and picked at for minor things. She understands why I left but is angry with me. I won’t go into my stuff here. We were, none of us, physically abused in any way, but we are all emotionally damaged. So your sister probably has a very different take on things. Sometimes the differences in treatment are not apparent to others, even in the family.

canidmajor's avatar

@longgone, sorry if we derailed a bit here, your “intentionally and repeatedly” phrase may have hit some nerves. Like mine. :-)

Inspired_2write's avatar

I have never intentionally hurt anyone, as I measure my words and actions carefully since having an abusive sibling and watching all that she did..turned out many years later that she was mentally ill and had an impulse to lash out at anyone that she felt deserved of it?

I had an ex boyfriend who thinks that he is owed an apology for someone who told him the truth of “why” they felt upset with them and get this…he thinks that he should get an apology after it was in fact him that caused so much hurt
( lashes out in anger, spewing derogatory phrases in an immature way, much like a kid losing control, but in writing…he is well over 50 yrs of age)

( one can imagine him at a keyboard slamming the keys).

Should HE receive an apology?

I think not, in this case, as it is he that used everyone in his path to get ahead as he traveled the World using everyone, by getting them to pay for him.
( food, clothing,trips,transport,wine….a pattern).

It has been almost five years and I heard through the grapevine that he still expects an apology?

This person either has no clue to his behavior or he actually does and is manipulating an apology to be given him so that he does not have to take responsibility for his own bad behavior?

In short not everyone is entitled to an apology, but IF I had hurt someone in flippant way etc, I apologize right away.

LostInParadise's avatar

An apology is an acknowledgement that something that you did in the past was wrong and that you regret any harm that might have resulted. For the person receiving the apology, there are two considerations. Firstly, do they believe the apology is sincere? Secondly, given that they believe the apology was sincere, are they willing to forgive the person for what was done? It is the second consideration that is the more difficult. Sometimes the damage done was too great to be able to accept the apology and no longer feel resentful.

SaganRitual's avatar

I did, in fact, recently do something very wrong to someone, a man whom I love as though he were my grandson. It wasn’t my intention to cause him to suffer, but my actions were deliberate; I told him a gigantic lie that grew and grew for almost a year. I had no excuse. I could have confessed at any time, significantly reducing his ultimate suffering. But I just kept growing the lie. And it was a serious lie, a relationship-destroying betrayal that would cause him no end of grief, confusion, and deep cognitive dissonance. My imagination was not large enough to foresee the ultimate extent of the devastation, but I knew I was mistreating him, and that’s enough.

Eventually, circumstances forced me to confess. I could not bring myself to apologize to him: I felt ashamed even to say the words, having committed my sins with my eyes wide open. So I told him just that: I was too ashamed to apologize, and needless to say, too ashamed to ask forgiveness. I asked him for guidance on restitution, token though it must be. And then I listened. Listening is the thing.

I’m not very fond of the concept of apology in general, even under less extreme circumstances. It shifts the focus away from the person who is suffering. If you drop a bowling ball on my foot, I couldn’t care less how sorry you are, or how bad you feel. When I’m in pain, physical or emotional, it’s about me, not you.

Think about the suffering person instead. What’s the best thing I can do for them, if anything, to alleviate their suffering? If they never want to hear from me again, then the best thing I can do is leave them alone. Depending on the circumstances, I might put it out there (ONE TIME ONLY) that I am available for them if they ever need to talk about it. If they haven’t banished me from their life, then my “apology” takes the form of compassion for their suffering, concern for their well-being. I ask if there’s anything I can do, is there any kind of restitution I could offer that would be meaningful to them, or anything else I can do to help them to process their feelings.

Apologizing, in the sense that people usually mean it, is not important at all to me. Minimizing the suffering in the world is what matters. Focus on the suffering person and their needs, and listen.

Peace and luck

KNOWITALL's avatar

Very rarely do I apologize for anything. I simply am not sorry most of the time and I’m honest about that. If I ever apologize for anything, I mean it. If I’m mean, I mean that, too. :)

MrGrimm888's avatar

^That’s a fair self-assessment, and a fair way to be. You can’t hide, that you’re also a good person, with a good heart:)

KNOWITALL's avatar

@MrGrimm Awww, thats kind Grimmy. :)

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Just an observation.

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