Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

The Value of Apology Towards a Better World

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Feb 16, 2014 8:21 PM

I'm not a fan of the constant apologizer, insincerely saying she's sorry over little nothings or over just being herself. You know the type. You bump into her or sneeze and she has "I'm sorry." She's all over herself with shame if she misspeaks or calls at the wrong time. (Or it can be a "he.")

I am a fan of the sincere, meaningful apology followed by repair work, when possible. I want the employee who offended the arrogant supreme executive to realize his place and know that he doesn't have to approve of everything that guy does but he does have to respect his success and be polite. It's OK for him to go back to the person and the bosses-at-hand and admit that he came across as brash, learned his lesson and would appreciate a second chance to prove himself.

Also, I want the man who flipped out at his stepsister for asking for money for a mother who neglected and rejected him much of his life to go back, admit his weakness and failings, his tendency to stay "stuck" in past grudges and his inability to help out now due to his own financial difficulties. The apology would make his overreaction all so much more understandable. When he flipped out at another family member for asking for help, too, he was wrong, cruel and inappropriate. Wouldn't it be cleansing for him to come out and say he should have been compassionate. The build-up of shame from having handled things poorly hurts the person who was mean, not only the victims of rejection.

Husbands and wives, lovers and friends, parents and children, teachers and employers really do need to self-examine and apologize, even if it's too late to repair the damage or save the day. If nothing else, the admission sets things straight in all the parties' consciousness. I know a divorced couple, remarried to other people, who found the ability to apologize healing. I know a doctor who handled a patient badly who made it clear that he's honestly sorry. (That's not someone who's likely to be sued.) These apologizers earn forgiveness and give it, too. The world becomes a better place for their sincerity.

But how about nations, organizations, groups of people who wrong their peers? Sometimes, we do see former Nazis, Klan members, and perpetrators of terorism, murder, even genocide, admit to their crimes against humanity and apologize. It doesn't change what happened. It doesn't even guarantee that it won't happen again, but it does give a little respite from the tragedy of the world and a little hope that people learn and change and that there's still growth towards love and peace possible.

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