Friday, September 4, 2020
Fifteenth Day of Elul 5780
Yesterday, we considered the first step of a good apology, stating what you did wrong. The second step is harder: expressing remorse.
Twenty years ago, there was a television show called Allie McBeal about a young attorney. There was a character on the show named Fish who repeatedly made fake apologies by saying, “My bad – bygones,” and walked away. The joke, of course, was that this was nothing like a real apology. Fish said nothing about how he felt about what he had done. He never promised not to do it again. It felt meaningless.
For an apology to be real, the person making the apology must express remorse. Our apologies need to say clearly that we recognize the harm we have done, that we feel badly about it, and that we are determined not to do the same thing again. Here are some examples:
• “In telling that embarrassing story about you, I know I hurt you. I recognize that I might also have damaged our friendship, which makes me feel terrible. I am so sorry. I really want to try to never do that again, to you or anyone.”
• “I know that by not calling to tell you that I would be home late, I made you worry about me needlessly. I also broke a promise, which undermines our relationship. I am so sorry. I want to make sure I don’t do things like that because I don’t want to hurt you or us.”
• “I recognize that you asked me to turn in my work by Friday for a reason. You needed it. I imagine that by not turning it in, and not even telling you that it would be late, I created difficulties for you and for others. I am very sorry for doing that. It won’t happen again.”
Note that regret is different from remorse. When you say, “I regret what I did,” it sounds like you just wish the whole thing had never happened, but you don’t feel badly about it. That’s not enough. When someone feels hurt by your actions, he or she needs to know that you understand why your actions hurt, that you feel badly about it, and that you will try not to do it again.
Practice for this day:
Think of a mistake or hurt that you have committed that you want to apologize for. (Again, pick a small one). Write down the words that you want to say to the person you hurt that will let her or him know that you feel remorse and will try not to do something like that again.
Try practicing saying it out loud.