5 Examples of Apologies Gone Bad

In our current study on Forgiveness, we most recently explored the issue of seeking the forgiveness of others.
Through the power of apology, we observed that any good apology includes three redemptive phrases:

“I am sorry.” “I was wrong.” “Will you forgive me?”

A good apology includes all three of these expressions (in one form or another).
“I’m sorry” conveys a sense of remorse and regret.
“I was wrong” communicates taking responsibility.
“Will you forgive me?” expresses the desire for reconciliation and repair.

When offered sincerely, in a spirit of humility and love, a good apology can change everything. It can initiate forgiveness, and start the healing process.

But a bad apology can undo it all.
Here are 5 examples of apologies gone bad.

#1. The Un-apology
The un-apology takes the onus of the situation, and places it squarely in the lap of the one who was hurt or slighted. “Look, I’m sorry you feel that way.” Now, granted, there may be times when someone is upset, for no good reason. But if reconciliation is the goal, then seeking to UNDERSTAND their feelings is a better way forward than dismissing them.

#2. The Passive Apology
The passive apology, much like the un-apology, shirks taking any real ownership as well. It masterfully employs the use of passive verbs. We have witnessed many public leaders offer the passive apology. “Unfortunately, things were said, and mistakes were made. And, while I do not believe I was in the wrong, I am sorry for the media attention it has caused, and the embarrassment it has brought to our great city.” Another name for the passive apology could be the “teflon” apology. Any real responsibility just slides right off.

#3. The Conditional Apology
The conditional apology tempers taking any real ownership by tucking in words that essentially undo or negate any fault language. Key words for the conditional apology are words like if and but. “I’m sorry if you don’t agree.” or “I’m sorry my words were hurtful, but I really had no choice since you backed me into a corner.” Sincere apologies should stop shy of any qualifying word or phrase. “I am sorry. Period.” No ifs, ands, or buts. And while an explanation of WHAT you are sorry for is certainly appropriate (and, indeed, required), be mindful that words you add after sorry can either reinforce or negate the sincerity of your apology.

#4. The Preemptive Apology
Preemptive apologies are doomed from the start. They are issued at the front end of a rant that can only be expected to offend listeners. They are nothing more than disclaimers that empower the offender to wash his or her hands of any fallout that may be ahead. Preemptive apologies are popular in Social Media. “I’m sorry if this tweet offends any of my #cat-lover friends, but…” or “I know many of you are going to be insulted by the following post, because you voted for this candidate. So I apologize ahead of time, but…”
Here is a great gut-check, grounded in good sense: If you know what you are about to do or say will cause more harm than good…uh, don’t. #Philippians 4:8

#5. The Punctuation Apology
The punctuation apology is all about tone and inflection. It conveys neither remorse nor penitence. “Okay, I’m sorry, but you must be out of your mind if you think I’m going to apologize to you.” In many ways, it’s nothing more than a vocalized pause, not unlike “uh, um, or y’know.” A bit of grammatical gymnastics, really, to mock the idea of any real sorrow over the situation. Clearly, when we use apology as punctuation, we have a long way to go before reconciliation is possible.

Ever been issued any of these apologies?
Ever issued a few of your own?
You’re not alone.

Remember, for reconciliation to be possible, it requires apology.
For apology to be sincere, it requires remorse, responsibility and repair.
Say it. Own it. Fix it.

I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?

Shaun King
Senior Pastor
Johns Creek Baptist Church

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