When An Apology Is Not An Apology (1)
By: Beth McHugh 2007
We’ve probably all experienced this: the apology that somehow doesn’t satisfy. The apology that leaves us feeling vaguely uncomfortable or even downright angry. Yet, haven’t we just received an apology? Or maybe we haven’t!
An apology is supposed to be a statement of genuine remorse that acknowledges that one person has done something to offend or upset another and wants to reassure the person that they have made a mistake and will try their best not to repeat the act. For an apology to qualify as an apology, there needs to be an effective understanding of what the offended person feels and the role of the offender in creating the hurt or angry feelings.
It takes guts to apologize. Many people find it hard to apologize. But if we desire strong, close and harmonious relationships with those we love, learning to apologize properly is a gem of a skill to possess. It means that you are mature, empathic and most of all, capable of taking responsibility for your own behaviors.
Let’s take the case of Paul, a solicitor, and his sister-in-law, Elise. Elise had been sexually assaulted by her employer and Paul had volunteered to determine just what crime or crimes had been committed during the assault. In order to do this, Paul had to hear the entire story of the assault from start to finish so that he could accurately assess the nature and extent of the crime(s) committed. By the end of the telling, Elise was in tears.
So far, so good. Paul promised to ask his boss, who had more experience in this field, to give his opinion on the case and to get back to Elise with the results. It is important for victims of sexual abuse, like Elise, to be made aware of the exact nature of the crime that has been committed against them, so as to encourage recovery by eliminating unnecessary guilt that often is associated with crimes of a sexual nature.
Elise was doing a very positive thing when she took up her brother-in-law’s offer to help. She was attempting to empower herself by learning the true nature and extent of the crimes committed by her perpetrator. This would assist Elise to see that the perpetrator carries the full responsibility of the crime according to the law, and that Elise herself is entirely blameless. Anyone who has experienced sexual abuse will be able to identify with the false guilt that accompanies many sexual assaults.
Unfortunately, Paul was unable to extend himself to assist his sister-in-law. He “forgot” the incident. You can read about Paul’s actions and how damaging they were to Elise in the next blog.