Question: When is an apology not an apology?
Answer: When it’s on Facebook.
This is the week when many of my Jewish friends post blanket apologies online as we sprint past Rosh Hashanah and race toward Yom Kippur. The Days of Awe are an intense period if you take it seriously, but all the religious rites are reserved for our relationships with God. When it comes to other people, any beefs have to be addressed directly with the individuals involved and there’s no prayer that lets us off the hook.
That’s where all these Facebook apology posts arise, as our modern transgressors adopt a wholesale purge of guilt by saying oopsie online. “If you’re one of the people I’ve hurt in the past year, I’m sorry. If not, feel free to move on. And my work here is done.”
I sympathize; really, I do. With so many aggrieved souls in our circles, the list of required apologies is endless. I have to apologize to Ed for being late and to Andrea for being too early; to Bill for ignoring his birthday and to Gwen for reminding her how old she is; to Stacy for calling too late at night and to Robert for waiting until the next day to give him the news. Maybe I can’t do anything right or, maybe, my contacts are simply looking for a reason to feel slighted.
Either way, the tally of bruised psyches multiplies until it would take more than a decade to deliver all the groveling demanded from me. I understand the temptation to call on Facebook to deliver a simple, high-volume solution for pique response.
Except that’s not how it works, and it’s not just my coreligionists who appear unable to offer a proper mea culpa these days. Nobody seems to know how to make amends, especially those sensitive souls who begin their pseudo-confessions with, “If I hurt you,” or “If I offended you.”
“If you were hurt when I stole your car and ran off with your spouse and emptied your bank account and slandered your name all over the place, I’m sorry. Of course, you’re way too sensitive about the whole thing and it was really not that big a deal. But, if it bothers you so much, then I’ll be the bigger person and apologize. Are we good now?”
Non-apology apologies seem to be the norm and not the exception, focusing on the fact that someone took offense and not on the offense itself. Does anyone know how to apologize for what they actually did? Apparently not.
Maybe the problem starts with childhood, when parents tell their kids to, “Say you’re sorry,” without insisting that they actually be sorry. Maybe It’s the mantra that, “I’m a good person,” so anyone who is offended is sadly unaware of my kind and giving nature. Or, maybe, we’re just a bunch of selfish and insensitive jerks.
A real apology is the most counter-cultural thing we can do, rejecting all the norms of our current age. There are no apps, no websites, no intermediaries or filters available to do it right. A real apology has to be direct, one to one. We have to speak directly to the person we’ve harmed, specify what we did, and express real remorse for our actions. Hard to believe, but most people actually did that a long, long, long time ago, at least when they weren’t dueling at dawn.
It's much different now. Everyone’s offended about everything and, quite frankly, I’m just a bit offended at their insistence that I somehow owe them an apology for absolutely nothing. I’ll apologize to them after they apologize to me, first, and some anodyne disclaimer on Facebook ain’t gonna cut it.
What else? Oh, yeah. To anyone who posted a generic apology on Facebook in the past year, please know that IF I HURT YOU by sharing my opinions, I am so very, very sorry.
If I actually do owe you an apology, please send me a detailed message, including receipts and warranty cards, and I’ll get back to you right away. If not, just click here to subscribe and I’ll consider us even.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.