Never ruin an apology with an excuse

And what’s interesting about apologizing
is that everyone is bad at it.
No one wants to do it,
everybody flinches and holds back.
You put it off, you procrastinate,
you have a conversation with the person
and you just don’t apologize to them.
And you’re like,
“God dammit, why can’t I just apologize to this person?


Michael Schur, creator of The Good Place

It’s so tough to say we’re sorry. We know we have to. It eats at us, we think about it, in our heart we know we’re wrong. But we try to justify, rationalize, deny the existence of the incident and the harm that we have caused or are causing.

And so often it is little things that careen out of control.
 
Earlier this week, a friend told me a story about a silly parking issue at her small office building where there was confusion about the designation of parking spots. People from another office kept parking in my friend’s spots. The landlord would not do their job. And there were a few verbal scuffles. My colleague received a note that was nasty and unnecessarily harsh about where she parked her car—the author of the note was dead wrong. And then the passive aggressive tension in the parking lot mounted. Not to mention the stress and the enormous waste of emotional energy that spread to the respective teams. Everyone was mad at everybody else. My friend was on her way home the other evening. She was on the freeway, and she saw something flapping on her windshield. She thought it was a ticket or something else. She pulled off the freeway to a gas station and found another note! This one was a very lengthy 100 word letter in a card. A heartfelt, beautifully handwritten apology for the previous note. The letter expressed how wrong they had been about the parking spaces and asked for forgiveness. The author’s name was Grace (really). I love the story. I love the time that Grace took to write a nice letter, no one does that anymore–in cursive. I love that the letter appeared sort of magically on the windshield and could have easily flown off but it didn’t. Most of all I love my friend’s deep appreciation for the letter. She was quite emotional when she read it to me. Not because she was vindicated. That’s not my friend. She was moved by the courage and humanity of the letter. She wished she had that within her. That this moment pushed her to have more grace in herself, more grace for others. It was a moment of inspiration. Grace, the author of the note, was transformed from villainous to virtuous. From menace to mentor.
 
I predict a great friendship will emerge……….
 
We underestimate the power and benefits of a proper apology. The great gift of opening one’s heart,  connecting to another and mending a wound.
 
This story moved me too. To redouble my efforts to be a better human. I truly want to do less harm. Be more authentic. Be more vulnerable.To take responsibility for what I do and say.
 
I don’t think I’m succeeding at even fifty percent, at being that person. So hard. But I think I’m better than I used to be. It is really a work in progress that takes empathy, effort, and self-effacement.  
 
The ego, my ego, is so brutally stubborn.
 
My default behavior and human behavior in general, follows a set of defensive complex neural and behavioral practices to avoid saying we are sorry. A self-gaslighting process of sorts. We will manipulate the facts to escape culpability.
 
Blind denial. It does not exist. It is so insignificant and meaningless. Zero awareness of the incident. Zero responsibility.

Reframe. The problem is something else, mis-characterized. Classic reframes: It was just a joke. They started it. They owe me an apology.
 
Authoritative Dissonance. Power and hierarchy provide a rationale for behavior that is wrong and hurtful. I have power over you and therefore you have to take it.
 
Never ruin an apology with an excuse. Benjamin Franklin
 
Randy Pausch advised that real apologies have three parts:
1) What I did was wrong.
2) I feel badly that I hurt you.
3) How do I make this better? 
 
When we know we are wrong. We know and it eats at us. We know we have to make it right. We know we have to apologize. To take our lumps. To grow up. To strengthen our bonds and relationships. To free ourselves from the burden of being less than we can.

To be redeemed and to redeem others. 
 
Not to mention the massive ripple effect it has on the witnesses. On our children. On our colleagues. On our parking lot attendants. 

Reach out to make the apology. 
 
Look into their eyes, have the conversation or write a heartfelt letter.
 
Do it now. Say you are sorry.
 
I promise, behind this act of courage, we will find Grace.

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