This morning I found myself taking a journey to the NPR website via a blog I follow culturemonk.com.
The article was entitled Why Not Apologizing Makes You Feel Better, Shankar Vedantam on April 1, 2013
At first I was convinced that it was that the article was a joke because it was published on April Fool’s day. But as I read it I realized that it was intended to be a serious article.
“We do find that apologies do make apologizers feel better, but the interesting thing is that refusals to apologize also make people feel better and, in fact, in some cases it makes them feel better than an apology would have,” Okimoto said in an interview.
Excuse me, but since when did an apology turn into merely a vehicle for making the apologizer “feel better?” Was I standing behind the door the day they handed out this nonsense? How did the recipient of the apology suddenly fall off the map? Silly me, I always thought an apology was an expression of regret or remorse for insult or harm done to another person. The harm may not be intentional, but does that give us leave to climb up on our high horse and announce “I’m not going to apologize for stepping on your toe because I didn’t do it intentionally! And furthermore, I will feel better, and have more self-worth if I don’t apologize.”
Oh God, this is beyond self-centered and into a whole new territory of the worship of self. Where is the value of a “self-worth” if it is built on the backs of those deliberately or accidentally harmed? How does refusing to apologize make one a better person? I’m sorry (oops, there I go apologizing) but I just can’t wrap my head around this.
This is not an issue of self-worth – it is self-aggrandizement wrapped up in a pretty package. It is the point of view that any harm done on the way to elevating one’s self in one’s own mind is fair game.
There used to be a word for this. Wait a minute…it’s on the tip of my tongue…Oh yea, I remember, it’s called rationalizing. Used for the sole purpose of making yourself believe that the harm you have done was somehow necessary or not really that hurtful, therefore you really haven’t done anything wrong and have no reparations to make.
The author went on to say “When you refuse to apologize, it actually make you feel more empowered…That power and control translate into greater feelings of self-worth.” Are you kidding me??? My question is empowered to what purpose? Empowered to say or do anything you want to do regardless of the price to others. No self-examination needed here. Everything single thing we do is A-OK.
Further on in the article a thinly disguised disclaimer read “…the researchers are not suggesting that refusing to apologize is a useful life strategy.” OK, then what exactly are you implying, because I’m not seeing the upside here?
“Okimoto believes that the research, in fact, may provide a clue on how best to get people to apologize. Our conventional approach, especially with kids, is to force people to apologize. But if people are reluctant to apologize because apologies make them feel threatened, coercion is unlikely to help.”
So now what? Instead of coercion we use manipulation? How is that different or helpful? We are now supposed to lead our children to a touchy feely explanation for an apology to allow them to avoid any unpleasant feelings of remorse for harmful actions?
I get it, I really do. A forced apology is rarely sincere, but is the solution to proclaim that apologies are “not good” for the apologizer? Even 2-year-old toddlers do things they need to apologize for. “No Johnny, it’s not OK to hit Janey over the head with your tonka truck, please apologize to her.” The whole premise of an apology is not for the person who needs to apologize to “feel better.” The intention is to express remorse and make reparation for harm done. In the long run it does make both parties “feel better.” I guess you could call it a win-win scenario.
Well anyway, I apologize for climbing once more onto my soap box. Heights make me dizzy, that’s my excuse anyway. Have a great day!