I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about this entry and if wondering I explained my “issue” well. Spoiler Alert: I don’t think I did.
I think THIS is my problem with the whole Someone Offends Someone >>> Someone May Or May Not Issue Apology chain of events: You can’t simply say “I’m sorry” if you really are sorry.
I have been working on something with my kids lately. HOW TO APOLOGIZE. If they’re in trouble and just crying, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” over and over I stop them and say, “That is NOT how you apologize. I need a REAL apology.”
There are TWO somewhat easy things I’m trying to teach them:
- Saying it over and over does not make you MORE sorry. Say it ONCE and MEAN it.
- You can’t just say “I’m sorry.” You have to say what you’re sorry for. “I’m sorry I used a bad word.” “I’m sorry I wrote on that desk.” “I’m sorry I yelled at you.” etc. That way the person you’re apologizing to knows that YOU know what you did wrong.
So…when I tell them they’re not giving me a REAL apology, I usually have them focus on those two areas.
But – I’m also trying to teach them the other part of an apology, and THIS is the thing that I think bugs me with the above mentioned chain of events. If you really want to convey sorrow over something to someone, you have to figure out a way to tell them how you’ve learned your lesson. Or how you’ve changed. Or SOMETHING. That’s the hard part. I’m not sure how to explain that to the kids just like I’m not sure how to write it in that entry yesterday.
It’s just – to me – someone who is REALLY sorry tries to learn from their mistake and change their behavior. Like in yesterday’s examples: Educate yourself on the culture/group you offended. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry I wore black face as my Halloween costume.” Say, “I’m sorry I wore black face as my Halloween costume and I’m going to spend time learning about this action as a part of African American history so I can better understand why that was so offensive so I can avoid being that offensive in that way again. Also? Here’s a donation to [insert charity here] to show my sincerity.”
Does THAT make sense? I feel like the whole “I’m sorry for my actions” is not enough, whether it’s a celebrity screw-up or a kid breaking a rule. A real apology also provides some sort of sign that you’re going to try to learn from the error so as not to make the mistake again. And that is the part I feel like we’re missing in the whole Celebrity Offends A Group Of People chain of events.
But I want my kids to understand that important part, too. And I’m struggling on explaining it to adults who read these words, I definitely fail at explaining it to them. But I think it’s so VERY important and helps teach that valuable lesson about how to really show someone you’re sorry if you’ve messed up. And so many people nowadays say things like, “I’m sorry you were offended…” or “I’m sorry my actions upset you…” or the WORST: “I’m sorry, but…” and none of those are foundations for a good apology.
And I’m not perfect by any means, which may be why I struggle so much with teaching/explaining the concept. My error tends to be in playing the martyr card with the “I’m sorry, but…” technique. I tend to say, “I’m sorry, but [insert action here that makes the person I’m apologizing too feel a little bad too].” Which, quite possibly, could be the WORST way to apologize.
Do you have any tricks for teaching your kids how to apologize?
Edited to add: My friend and I continued the discussion in the comments where I admit/agree that there are times where you can be REALLY sorry someone is offended, because you don’t like to seem them upset, but you really CAN’T change your view/behavior. I think a good example (which I used in the comment) would be if someone I really loved (like family, the unconditional kind of love) got their feelings hurt that I wasn’t a Christian. And there might be some of them who do get upset with me for that reason! I have a lot of very faithful Christians in my family. Anyway – I would truly feel sorry that they were hurt by my non-belief. BUT…I couldn’t/wouldn’t change my actions/beliefs to adapt. So…in that case…my apology if they confronted me would have to be: I’m sorry my position upsets you. Which falls under the “crappy” apology described above. HOWEVER – I can be respectful and not post a snarky link on Facebook making fun of Christians. If I did post something making fun of Christians? They would have every right to separate ties with me, no matter what our blood said. Because that would be seriously shitty of me.