Most people, at some point in their childhood, have said “sorry” with the wrong motive. You know exactly what I mean: that time you said sorry to a sibling or friend because your mother forced you to, not because you were actually sorry. You just said it so that further punishment was not handed down. You weren’t stupid, you knew how to get out of a spanking or whatever punishment was coming.
That’s a child’s way of saying sorry with the wrong motive: fear of consequences. Some people when they grow up still say sorry for the wrong motive, but fear of consequences is much less likely to be that motive.
Normally, and we are all guilty of this at some point, our reason for saying sorry is different, but just as selfish. Instead of fearing the consequences, we fear our conscience. We don’t want to have the regret of not settling things. We want closure. We want to feel good that we “restored” the relationship. We basically do it to make ourselves feel good and potentially look good.
It is a noble intent for some, yes, and for others it is to impress a person or move on from something, but it isn’t any better than saying sorry out of fear of consequence. It isn’t any better because you aren’t actually sorry for what you’ve done, but what negative consequences it had on you.
People love to pull this version of sorry out at the end of something. A school year, a job, a death, something that means that you won’t be seeing that person again, potentially for the rest of your life. Instead of using the time you had while they were around, you wait and waste all that time, until you have no time left. Then time forces your hand.
Do you see what is wrong with that? While they were around, you didn’t care enough to try and repair things, when you had tbe time available to actually do so. While they were around, you didn’t think they’d leave, because we as humans are rather short-sighted. While they were around, that feeling of guilt and regret wasn’t present because you always had tomorrow. Now you don’t, so now you try to restore something that wasn’t important enough to restore when you should have.
This is what that tells the person to whom you are apologizing: I recognize I was wrong, but didn’t care enough to do anything about it until it negatively affected me. You don’t care about the person, you care about yourself. That isn’t an apology. That isn’t being sorry. That isn’t restoring something. That is simply applying a last-minute fix to something that needs a complete overhaul. But, hey! They are leaving, so the fact that the last-minute fix doesn’t work isn’t important because you won’t feel those consequences, right?
Sincere apologies aren’t made because you feel bad (though that may be one of many reasons to do so). You apologize because you know you hurt this person, and you care enough about them to humble yourself, go to them, confess the wrong done, and try to rebuild what you destroyed. It is on them to forgive you, yes, and if you both are going at this the right way, forgiveness will be extended.
An apology requires humility. An apology requires honesty. An apology requires concern for the one wronged. An apology requires a desire to restore what was destroyed. Apologizing to save your own skin isn’t apologizing, but pretending. The same thing you did as a child when your mother made you.
If you are going to apologize, good. Do that. But don’t apologize for the wrong motives. An apology with wrong motives is just a waste of air and words, it fixes nothing. An apolicy requires words, but it also requires action. A humble, honest confession of wrongdoing and desire for restoration at the time of infraction (that’s important) is what is needed.
That’s an apology.