Tuesday, 18 May 2010

"Apologizing - a very desperate habit - one that is rarely cured. Apology is only egotism wrong side out." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

I've never been comfortable with apologising or being apologised to about anything weightier than, "I'm sorry I'm late."

This is partially due to the fact that I've been raised in a household where one of my role models clings desperately to pride because they struggled through years of prejudice and stereotyping to build up a reputation. Apologising means accepting the blame for something you did wrong, which means sacrificing your pride. Once I finally understood this, I began to understand why this blames everyone around them before themselves, rather than admit their own fault and apologise.

The other, more important reason why I don't like apologies in general is a theory I've come up with myself.

According to the Random House Dictionary, an apology is defined as a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.

I'd like to build on this definition.

Apologies are selfish.

Apologies stem from the build up of our guilt for something we have done to another person. This guilt feeds like a parasite our conscience until eventually, we crack and decide to apologise. Whenever we apologise to someone, we expect forgiveness because it's conventional. Apologies and forgiveness are like questions and answers- it's only polite and politically correct to provide the latter in response to the first.

I know what I've just stated is probably information you well-informed, intelligent people out there are already aware of, but I'm hoping you haven't noticed the flaw in this process. If you have, then that renders this blog post irrelevant and you've wasted precious few seconds of your life reading this.

When we apologise, the first thing on our mind is not the alleviation of someone else's pain. The first thing on our mind is our own selfish need to feel like a good person, because knowing that we have hurt someone else makes us feel like monsters.

We want to get rid of our own regret, our own remorse, our own sorrow, so we achieve that by apologising. The actual act of apologising manages to lessen all of the negative emotions clawing at our insides like talons, but it is the conventional, expected "I forgive you" that exorcises our personal demons.

We all feel relieved when we are forgiven. This makes no sense because:

a) We have not helped the situation. The other person might feel better, but they still need to deal with the emotional/physical consequences of our actions.

b) Being forgiven does not erase what we have done in the past, which is what we subconsciously believe. We should remember what we have done and the pain it brought other people, so that we make an effort to never do it again.

Forgiveness should not be necessary or expected. It is irrelevant, if we really apologise to make other people feel better.

I also believe this selfishness, this need to know we are good people, is part of human nature. I think it's ingrained into everyone.

I told my mum about this and she immediately raised the argument, "There are people out there that apologise sincerely for things that aren't their fault. For instance, people apologise to families who have recently lost someone."

However, this is again a product of human selfishness. When we someone else suffer, we feel guilty because our lives are so much better than theirs. This guilt again grows exponentially until we feel compelled to apologise to get rid of it, with the added bonus of feeling like sensitive, caring, worldly people.

Don't assume that I think apologies and human selfishness are wholly horrible things though. If we weren't selfish and felt the need to get rid of our guilt, then we wouldn't apologise. And despite my bleak outlook and judgment on our humanity, I think there's one undeniable truth:

Apologies don't erase wounds, but they do help them heal.

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