This I (Don't) Believe Speech

I believe that apologies are useless.

I do believe that when bad things happen, or when you do something wrong or make a mistake, it is acceptable to say you’re sorry, but that doesn’t completely make it up to whomever you’ve wronged. Apologies are something I don’t understand. As a social convention, they make no sense whatsoever. Saying that you’re sorry doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t even have to mean anything. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you wouldn’t do it again or even that you regret what you’ve done, only that you regret the consequences.

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Beyond that, it’s just another form of emotional blackmail. You tell someone ‘I’m sorry’ and you usually expect to hear that it’s okay, or that you’re forgiven, or that they’re not mad at you. Either they mean it – then they were probably going to forgive you anyway – or they don’t and only say it because it’s the socially acceptable response, in which case the entire exercise will only be a mutual exchange of lies to conform to the social norms. It’s a pointless process. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines apologizing as “an acknowledgement expressing regret or asking for a pardon for a fault or offense”. I define it as a completely useless social convention.

I believe that if you ever really felt sorry for someone or felt guilty for something, then apologizing would only be appropriate if you knew that there was only one way to express how sorry you were. That is the only exception I can think of. I believe that apologizing isn’t compensation for their grief and pain. It’s merely a reminder that there’s something to apologize for. The idea came to me when I was arguing with my brother on who should get the most cookies.

After eating all of them, my brother immediately felt guilty and began apologizing nonstop; you know that thing you do when the words just tumble from your mouth? “I’m so sorry, oh geeze I’m so so so sorry, are you okay, I’m so sorry, sorry sorry sorry…” I kept having to remind him that it was okay, that it was just a bunch of cookies, and that it was fine. On about the seventh round of this cycle, I suddenly realized that it was all completely useless. Apologizing like this may be a therapeutic way to get rid of your guilt, but in terms of sincerity, it’s very shallow. I admit, I have apologized like this many times before; it’s deeply ingrained and very instinctive. I have seen people apologize over and over again in rapid succession many times before, and I know that they also find it instinctive, as well. But the more reflexive an action is, the less profound it is.

I believe that it holds less meaning for someone if you were going to say that you were sorry anyways. The number of times you apologize doesn’t matter. Imagine that there comes a time when you realize that holy crap, you’ve really screwed up big time, and you failed, and you blew it, and apologizing is necessary for you to rebuild a relationship. It’s time for you to suck up all your pride and grovel. But if the mess you made was really that big in the first place, apologizing wouldn’t make it up to anyone, least of all yourself.

I believe that the alternative to apologizing, in situations such as this, is to simply make it up to the person instead of a hasty “I’m sorry”. Whichever apology you’re trying to conjure up, shallow or meaningful, sincere or instinctive, will mainly turn out pointless if you don’t have any hidden action behind your words. Apologizing may be simpler to do than to make it up to someone, but the easy way out will never get anything resolved. Though I believe that they are useless for the most part, I know that many apologies can hold very deep meaning in someone’s life, and that it can mean the world to someone if you simply say that you’re sorry. Behind accusations and anger and hurt, there is always the desire that the person who wronged you will also feel guilty or wounded, as well. There is a way to express that, and it is called an apology.

It is something that I don’t really believe can help much, but will always be there in the backburner, just in case. I believe that apologies will never disappear from the world as a social convention, no matter how much I want it to; it is just like stapler removers. Completely useless, but I allow them in my life, anyway. Apologies. This I don’t believe.