“An apology can be a wonderful thing so long as it is infrequent and from the heart. However, beware of the person who justifies bad behavior with apologies. From them, it is a means to an end, and quite often at your expense.” – Gary Hopkins
It all started when audio recordings of a phone call conversation between then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Virgilio Garcillano, who was election commissioner when the event happened, were released to the public. The scandal escalated when the minority of the lower house of Congress attempted to impeach the president.
Arroyo denied the allegations although she admitted she was the woman who was heard on wiretapped phone conversations. “I recognize that making any such call was a lapse in judgement,” she told the nation in a four-minute televised address. “I am sorry.”
The incident came to mind while reading a chapter of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, which was on the number one New York Times bestseller.
“Whenever you are in business – or when you are taking risks, making things happen, interacting with others, or in the public eye – you are bound to make mistakes,” wrote Dr. Richard Carlson, the book’s author.
“At times, you are going to use bad judgment, say something wrong, offend someone, criticize unnecessarily, be too demanding, or act selfishly,” he continued. “The question isn’t whether you will make these mistakes – we all do. The question is: Can you admit to them? If so, the question becomes: Can you apologize?”
Before answering that inquiry, listen to the words of Sandeep N. Tripathi: “Ego said, ‘I will not apologize for who I am’. Experience replied, ‘Unless your self-realization comes to light, your apology is worthless. And, when your self-realization does come to light, which it will, your apology will be of little or no value at all.’”
People who never ask for an apology are described as liars. In The Bimbo Has Brains: And Other Freaky Facts, Cathy Burnham Martin wrote: “Liars are highly unlikely to admit their lies, never mind apologize for the hurt they’ve caused. Liars don’t genuinely apologize.
“Deceit has become their full-out lifestyle,” Martin further wrote. “They are centered on themselves with no thoughts of the consequences of their lies. In cowardly style, they tell more lies to try and cover their tracks. They are not good at admitting they actually have shortcomings.”
That’s what makes asking for an apology hard. As Dr. Carlson pointed out, “Many people never apologize. They are either too self-conscious, self-righteous, stubborn, or arrogant to do so. The unwillingness to apologize is, not just sad, it is a serious mistake as well.
“Almost everyone expects others to make mistakes. And with a humble and sincere apology, almost everyone is willing to forgive. However, if you are a person who is either unable or unwilling to apologize, you will be branded a difficult person to work with,” he further elaborated.
And there’s a big hitch if you keep on not apologizing for the behavior or actions you have done: “Over time,” Dr. Carlson said, “people will avoid you, speak behind your back, and do nothing to help you.”
“I am sorry.” That maybe only three words but saying it to the person you have done something wrong is for sure a herculean task. “‘Sorry’ is, indeed, one of the most difficult and most powerful words in English language, provided one can feel and say it at the same time,” wrote Uday Mukeriji in Love, Life and Logic. “It’s difficult because you sincerely need to feel the pain of the other person and rise above your ego and say it; it’s powerful because you overwhelm the other with the opposite reaction of what they were expecting.”
Martin, who was mentioned earlier, said that by saying apologies, you are actually admitting your mistakes. “Apologies require taking full responsibility,” she explained. “No half-truths, no partial admission, no rationalization, no finger pointing, and no justifications belong in any apology.”
Beverly Engel seemed to agree. “A meaningful apology,” she wrote in The Power of Apology: Healing Steps to Transform All Your Relationships, “is one that communicates three R’s: regret, responsibility and remedy.”
Don’t wait for tomorrow to ask for an apology. “The longer you hold onto an apology,” David Arnold reminded, “the harder it is to give.” For as Dr. Carlson said, “The ability to apologize, to admit mistakes, is a beautiful human quality that brings people closer together and helps us succeed.”
But never use apology to manipulate others, as some people do so. “Stiff apology is a second insult,” Gilbert K. Chesterton once said. “The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”
Dr. Carlson said it this way: “You must never apologize as a tool of manipulation, to try to get a response like this or to get something out of it. When you apologize from your heart, you keep most of your existing doors open. Occasionally, you may even open doors that had previously been closed.”
In some instances, what you have done to others may be forgotten but there are those who can always remember that bad words you have spoken to them. Here’s what Stephanie Lahart said: “Yes, a person can accept your apology and forgive you for what you’ve said, but they will never forget how you made them feel at that very moment. Words can stick in a person’s mind, heart and spirit long after the words have been spoken. Don’t be in denial; words have great power. Be wise when you speak!”
Forgive and forget – this should be the attitude of whose who have been given an apology. Again, Martin reminded: “If there were past mistakes, I do not believe we should nag or repeat them, never mind throw them in someone’s face. If they sincerely apologized and we genuinely forgave them, we must move on. Learn from mistakes, but move on. If we bring them up and toss them at the offender, we may not have actually forgiven them, even if we claim we have.”
After all, forgiveness, to quote the words of Isaac Friedmann, “is the sweetest revenge.”