The Depths of an Apology

“I’m sorry” is a phrase so commonly used that it starts to become second nature to many, but is one actually sorry? Elizabeth Spelman goes into the depths about how an apology is not an apology unless sincere sorrow is exhibited. She writes, “In order to apologize-really apologize, and not just utter some words-for something one has done or failed to do, one has not only to acknowledge responsibility for but express sincere sorrow and regret over this action or inaction” (Spelman 82). I feel it is provoking that she chose to explain this because an apology to many is something we learn from childhood. We are taught as kids to respect one another and, when we messed up, to say “I’m sorry” for it. But when is “I’m sorry” not enough? When does it mean anything at all? That is the basis at which Spelman is trying to point out to so many who think a simple apology can mend all scares.

An apology is something I say and hear every day. Whether it is walking to class or in class you are bound to hear someone say “sorry”. For me, it is when I am walking to class and accidently bump into someone. In that scenario a simple “sorry” is acceptable but there are plenty of situations where a “sorry” does not quite cut it. Spelman touches upon a situation like this when discussing the Tuskegee Study. Clinton apologized on behalf of the U.S and said, “What the United States did was shameful, and I am sorry” (Spelman 88). Clinton’s apology becomes meaningful when adding in the fact that he owns up to what the U.S. did. He admits that what went on was “shameful”. It the difference between a simple apology and one that actually means something. Spelman adds, “…it must be clear that he regrets what he has done and feels sorrow over what he has wrought” (Spelman 83). Admitting to the mistake is essential in a meaningful apology, yet, so many people overlook it. If Clinton were to have just gone on about how sorry the U.S. felt for what took place and never admitted to messing up, the apology would have been no different than him simply saying “I’m sorry”. By accepting the mistakes made it ensures those affected that their scares are trying to be mended. That what they went through is not viewed as nothing. That their injuries are being thought of and cared about.

Through adolescence we have been taught, for the most part, that an “I’m sorry” is the key to fixing anything broken. Break your best friends favorite pencil? Say “sorry” and move on with it. Lose your friends video game? Nothing a “sorry” can’t fix. Sometimes people even try to mend more serious mistakes with “I’m so sorry” thinking an emphasis on the apology is going to make a difference. Crash your parent’s car? That requires an “I’m so sorry!” for sure. Spelman explains though that two words, maybe three, are never enough for a genuine apology. A genuine apology consists of owning up to the mistakes made and showing respectful condolences for them.

When we are kids our parents would always make us confess to what we did wrong and apologize for it. I know I always heard my mother say, “a sorry is not enough”. I would get so accustomed to apologizing then quickly running off that the words that were coming out of my mouth were becoming meaningless. This idea follows up Spelman’s point of appropriate apologies because most situations where we say “sorry”, a “sorry” really is not enough. Saying that one simple word does no repair for those affected by the mistake. Without verifying that you are clear on what you did and you know how it affected someone, the apology might as well not be said.

Owning up to a mistake seems to be difficult to so many people. People seem to have difficulty acknowledging failure or messing up. For some, an apology means loss of pride. For others, an apology is embarrassing. Who wants to admit that they messed up? Who wants to put themselves below someone else voluntarily? It seems to be no one these days. Nobody wants to say they messed up because failure is viewed as a sign of weakness. If you apologize then you now failed. It is the ability to acknowledge failure and prevail from it that creates a meaningful apology.

Spelman has discussed different gender roles and discrimination throughout the text. She touched upon how, in employment, it is more commonly seen that men, like Willie and Fred, are the ones doing the dirty, physical work, whereas women, such as Louise, Irene, and Elizabeth are the ones doing feminine work. Relating to gender differences, I find it them men, more than women, have difficulties admitting to mistakes. Men tend to display a brave and tough persona. An apology is seen as a sign of weakness and men cannot be seen as weak. For males, confessing that they messed up is like giving up a piece of manhood. There is almost an image that a male is so mighty that no mistake should ever be made. When apologizing, you are voluntarily giving someone else superiority over yourself. You were the one who messed up and now must take the repercussions for it. It is common to see that men wish to feel superior. Willie and Fred like to take control of their work and make it their own in some way. So by apologizing it now means that that man is no longer superior. Do you think Willie would apologize for making a motorcycle too strong? Do you think Fred would apologize if a customer did not think his work was up to par? In my eyes, I would guess no. These men take pride in their work and to admit to a mistake made would be detrimental to them.

Compared to Willie and Fred, Louise, Irene, and Elizabeth would have a different approach the issue. If someone were to say to the trio that the color of the paint they used was incorrect, I feel as though they would apologize thoroughly without a second thought. Females seem to be more emotionally connected and therefore much more willing to properly apologize. To them, there is no shield they must hold up to defend themselves. There is no masculinity at stake. An apology is not a difficult task when you understand what wrong was done and confront the issue. Women seem to be more willing to accept failure and learn from it. Men have this idea that in order to protect their masculinity and manhood that no apology could ever easily be given. Due to a woman’s inner emotional connections drawn out by gender roles it becomes more natural to acknowledge mistakes and take credit where credit is due.

We see differences in genders throughout Spelman’s Repair and though she does not directly discuss the differences in terms of apologizes she creates an image for both men and women to work off of. The males are seen as tough, brave, and more physically connected to both people and object. On the other hand, the females are seen as feminine, delicate, and emotionally connected. It is the differences in genders that conflict with the ability to appropriately apologize. Females tend to more easily admit to mistakes made and take responsibility for them. Males tend to put up a fight and resist the need to admit to messing up.  

Whether a male or female, we homo repareans tend to fail to meet the standards of a proper apology. It is adolescence that has accustomed us to two words that fix all problems, “I’m sorry”. Spelman explains though how two words can never be enough to mend the serious scares some receive. In order to show sincere sorrow to those who are hurt one must display genuine condolences and acknowledge failures made.

Advertisements

When is “I’m Sorry” Not Enough?

“I’m sorry” is a phrase so commonly used that it starts to become second nature to many, but is one actually sorry? Elizabeth Spelman goes into the depths about how an apology is not an apology unless sincere sorrow is exhibited. She writes, “In order to apologize-really apologize, and not just utter some words-for something one has done or failed to do, one has not only to acknowledge responsibility for but express sincere sorrow and regret over this action or inaction” (Spelman 82). I feel it is provoking that she chose to explain this because an apology to many is something we learn from childhood. We are taught as kids to respect one another and, when we messed up, to say “I’m sorry” for it. But when is “I’m sorry” not enough? When does it mean anything at all? That is the basis at which Spelman is trying to point out to so many who think a simple apology can mend all scares.

An apology is something I say and hear every day. Whether it is walking to class or in class you are bound to hear someone say “sorry”. For me, it is when I am walking to class and accidently bump into someone. In that scenario a simple “sorry” is acceptable but there are plenty of situations where a “sorry” does not quite cut it. Elizabeth Spelman touches upon a situation like this when discussing the Tuskegee Study. Clinton apologized on behalf of the U.S and said, “What the United States did was shameful, and I am sorry” (Spelman 88). Clinton’s apology becomes meaningful when adding in the fact that he owns up to what the U.S. did. He admits that what went on was “shameful”. It the difference between a simple apology and one that actually means something. Spelman adds, “…it must be clear that he regrets what he has done and feels sorrow over what he has wrought” (Spelman 83). Admitting to the mistake is essential in a meaningful apology, yet, so many people overlook it. If Clinton were to have just gone on about how sorry the U.S. felt for what took place and never admitted to messing up, the apology would have been no different than him simply saying “I’m sorry”. By accepting the mistakes made it ensures those affected that their scares are trying to be mended. That what they went through is not viewed as nothing. That their injuries are being thought of and cared about.

Owning up to a mistake seems to be difficult to so many people. Through adolescence we have been taught that an “I’m sorry” is the key to fixing anything broken. Break your best friends favorite pencil? Say “sorry” and move on with it. Lose your friends video game? Nothing a “sorry” can’t fix. Sometimes people even try to mend more serious mistakes with “I’m so sorry” thinking an emphasis on the apology is going to make a difference. Crash your parent’s car? That requires an “I’m so sorry!” for sure. Spelman explains though that two words, maybe three, are never enough for a genuine apology. A genuine apology consists of owning up to the mistakes made and showing respectful condolences for them. People seem to have difficulty acknowledging failure or messing up. For some, an apology means loss of pride. For others, an apology is embarrassing. Who wants to admit that they messed up? Who wants to put themselves below someone else voluntarily? It seems to be no one these days. Nobody wants to say they messed up because failure is viewed as a sign of weakness. If you apologize then you now failed. It is the ability to acknowledge failure and prevail from it that creates a meaningful apology.

Why Can’t Mommy Fix the Toilet?

When it comes to repair, gender plays an important role in how the repair is executed. Spelman thoroughly explains how men may try to physically repair something with actual tools through domestic masculinity, whereas women try to repair relationships with words and feelings through domestic femininity. To me, this idea is intriguing. In society today there is constant talk of gender bias and sexual discrimination that relates back to the points Spelman makes.

The fact of the matter is that there may be differences in the ways a female or male go about fixing things but it is how each gender is viewed while doing it that starts to become an issue. When a man is repairing something like a toilet, for example, he is viewed as masculine and heroic. On the other hand, if a women were to try to repair something like a toilet she may be viewed as too masculine or incapable to do the job. Spelman does a great way of bringing the issue of gender roles arise by explaining several different situations where gender role influences decisions made. She constantly shows how women are thought to be more emotional and caring while men are more physical and hands-on.  

In the text there is an excerpt that states, “The fact is that women don’t have to be unhandy. They are not inherently nonmechanical; they have been educationally deprived by their society and then trained to believe that their aptitude is low. What is most needed is authoritative assurance that “educationally deprived” does not mean “uneducable”…” (Webb and Houseman). Women are no less capable than men at any one task inparticular. Society has begun to merged into a place where we are teaching the coming generations that women don’t do handy work, that women are less tough, that women get paid less than men for the same job. It is no wonder that there are so many clear gender role issues when we are the culprits of the issue itself. I believe Spelman included this expert to point to the fact that, just because someone may say you cannot do something based on your gender, does not mean that it is true. There is no reason a women could not go out and decide to become a plumber, or a mechanic, or a high-paid lawyer. The fact that someone is a female should not stop them from anything they wish to do.

While Spelman pointed out female discrimination, she also touched upon male as well. Using an example from the show Fraiser, Spealman explained how men become embarrassed when they feel they cannot meet the requirements of a man. When the two main characters, with Harvard degrees, were unable to fix a toilet, they felt ashamed and almost emasculated in a sense. Thinking about sexual discrimination and gender bias we so often point out only how men are treated more superior to women. There are times though when men are discriminated as well and it is important and provoking that Spelman chose to include this. The gender roles setup for men are generally that they must be tough, handy, and brave. When the characters in Fraiser were unable to meet these expectations that suddenly made them less of a man. Society has put a weight on the shoulders of men that such tasks should be completed by them indefinitely. So when those tasks cannot be completed, what does that make the man? Is he still a man? Does not being able to fix a toilet suddenly make a man feminine?

The issues of gender role and discrimination are thoroughly discussed in the text. It is a relevant issue that society so frequently looks over because it has now become common nature to so many. Men are expected to act one way and women are expected to act another way, never crossing paths. What is most influential in what Spelman writes is that gender roles are such a large issue, yet we contribute to the issue every single day. A women maintains the job of a women because we are taught no other way. We have been taught that certain genders take certain roles and if that does not occur then we are not meeting our role requirements.