One dictionary defines this word as “a statement that excuses or defends.”
Not my idea of apology.
A better one says “acknowledgment that asks for pardon for a fault or offense.”
Both seem a little superficial. Real apology is devastating; it annihilates the ego.
Long ago, I slept with a friend’s wife, and the truth had become known to all ‑ my friend, parents, other acquaintances. I justified my behavior in a number of ways (she was lonely; I was lonely; he didn’t pay her attention; I really intended to marry her; etc.). Finally, it became clear: I had been thoroughly selfish, self‑centered, manipulative, dishonest, disloyal, and crude. Worse, I somehow sensed that I would remain crippled by my acts for years to come unless something drastically conclusive was done.
Many people had been damaged; several had looked up to me. They hated me now, would look daggers through me if we met in a store.
One day, I heard a teacher speak simply about what people must do when they wrong others. I knew his remarks were exactly accurate and perfectly thorough and true. He outlined specific action to take.
The next day, I made a list of everyone who might have been injured by my actions. With a script (so I wouldn’t babble) and a towel to mop my sweating face and hands, I began to phone each person, telling them I had wronged them and asking for their forgiveness.
In two hours, it was done. Every person but one had forgiven me. One withheld forgiveness, but my guilt and shame were diminished even in that encounter: I knew that though I had no excuse, I had done all I could do.
The relief seemed larger than myself, transcendent, lucent, miraculous. The load never came back: years later, I still ponder it, amazed.
The Tale Wagged
In my experience, complete apology has proven so powerful that it seems an epiphany, a divine encounter. I have seen full apology trap and bury guilt and shame. If given without any conditions or reservations, it can utterly release one or both parties.
Apology without any excuses or defense, fully owned, devoid of any blame‑shifting, is very rare. I often have a string of conditions attached to my apologies, even if they’re just a faint inflection in my voice that implies, “Well, if he hadn’t. . . .” or “I was only. . . .”
That does not do the job. It’s not even a start.
Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?
If you are ready to do anything to “stop the buck,” in a toxic relationship, see what you did, tell them you wronged them, and ask for their forgiveness.
Straight up, no chaser.
Only do this when you’ve finally realized that no one in the world ‑ your parents, your boss, your other enemies ‑ no one else deserves blame for the pain you have caused.