Paula Dean, Anthony Weiner, Ryan Braun, Riley Cooper, A-Rod… Is it just me, or do scandals come in clusters? All of them did something. Said something. Took something. And when the news broke, they crafted carefully worded speeches to atone for their sins, just like thousands of embarrassed celebrities that came before them.
Sometimes they seem sincere and contrite. Other times, they offer stubborn, ridiculous defiance. Worst of all, some offer maddening, squishy Non-Apology Apologies.
I recognize these, because I have used one or two of them myself. They don’t work out well for celebrities, and they don’t work out for regular folks who blow it, either. These are really just disguised defenses. Nothing more. And in a court of law, only those who plead “not guilty” are allowed to defend themselves. (And if you’re not guilty, then why are you apologizing?)
So here they are, for all of us: the top 5 Non-apology Apologies. If you’re saying “I’m sorry” while using these phrases, you’re probably doing it wrong:
5) “If I’ve offended anyone…”
You have. That’s why you’re here. And it sounds like you’re still not sure “if” you did anything wrong. If you’re not sure, then stop and listen to the one(s) you’ve offended. Because what you have there is not an apology, son.
4) “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through…”
What, this thing that you did to yourself? I’m sure it sucks! And I have sympathy. I really do. But why do you seem to think you are the victim all of a sudden? If you are the guilty party, then by definition, you aren’t the victim. (And for future reference, sin generally does injure the sinner. True story.)
3) “I realize now I’ve made mistakes.”
Gosh, I hate to sound snarky, but most of us realized that about ourselves when we were six. And even back then, it didn’t work as “get out of jail free” card. We know you’ve made mistakes. But right now, it’s all about specifics. What did you do?
2) “I deserve a second chance.”
Wait, you deserve a second chance? Methinks you are confusing mercy with justice. Nobody in the history of sin has deserved a second chance. We call grace “amazing” precisely because it is undeserved. Forgiveness is only beautiful because guilt is so hideous. If you think you can demand mercy, you are probably not ready for it. (Note to Christians: If you are the offended party, you don’t have much a choice, here. You need to forgive. Jesus was pretty clear on that.)
1) “I’m not perfect. There’s only ever been one perfect man…”
Do you hear that head banging against the wall? That’s St. Augustine. Even he isn’t buying this one. Yes, all of us have sinned. But right now, we’re not talking about any of that. We’re talking about you. We’re talking about now. Did you do this thing? Because you didn’t have to, and you know that’s true. You’re too powerful to play this card. Don’t do it.
So there they have it. Five apologies that will actually make it harder for other people to forgive you. And since we are looking for actual reconciliation here, best to stay away from them.