What is an apology? When thinking of an apology, it is more than likely that the words “I’m sorry” come to mind. Those two words become a compensation for what is thought to need an apology. But the fact is that an apology is much more than those two simple words. Our generation has many misconceptions of a genuine apology. In fact, we often lack the ability to be genuine in general. Apologies have also become less significant because of how often they are said. Think of how many times a day you apologize for something that does not require one. “That was my last stick of gum, sorry.” “No, I do not have an extra pencil, I’m sorry.” “Sorry, I won’t be able to come out with you tonight, I have an exam in the morning.” The fact that apologies are so often used, unnecessarily, forces them to become meaningless. For this reason, it is incredibly difficult to decipher a genuine apology from one that is inauthentic.
To apologize to someone is to say that there is a harm worth attending to, a relationship worth mending, a rule worth honoring, a community worth preserving. (83)
To apologize is to acknowledge harm. When a person apologizes, they are to become completely vulnerable to the recipient of the apology. They are to express guilt, remorse, and sincerity, to feel just as vulnerable as the other person had when the harm was done. An “I’m sorry,” is never a sufficient apology because it lacks the true emotions for the apology to become meaningful. Once an apology is given, the recipient has both the right to accept and agree to repair what has been broken or to decline the apology and to leave what has been broken undone. “Human relationships are such that they can be broken by one party but can’t be repaired without both parties” (86). Repairing what has been broken requires both an apology and forgiveness. On page 85, Spellman uses a brilliant analogy, “…[an apology is] an invitation to share in a ritual of repair, in a dance that takes more than one dancer.” Most believe that repairing the harm done to a relationship only requires the forgiveness of the one to whom the apology is offered. In reality, it is both people that are necessary for repair. As said before, the apologizer must recite a proper apology acknowledging wrongdoings and displaying sincere emotions. Therefore, if an apology is dishonest and apathetic the apologizer has failed his/her task in beginning a repair.
Chapter five of Repair, Spellman has allowed me to come to several realizations about the true meaning of an apology. We so often take for granted what an apology is and what they are intended to do. Apologies are not just words spoken that automatically achieve forgiveness, nor should they be used as casually as we do today. I can recall a time when I was in an argument with my closest friend, Jess. She had expressed her discontent with the way I had been acting recently; I was becoming very selfish and inconsiderate of her feelings. Jess and I have been best friends for over seven years. We have become much closer than friends, I see her as a sister. I was extremely blindsided, hurt, and remorseful that I had ever made her feel such a way. We had gone three days without speaking, which has never happened. During those lengthy three days I had time to contemplate and take responsibility for my actions. I knew that my apology to her had to be sincere and honest if I ever wanted to repair our friendship. After the third day, I apologized to Jess with deep sorrow and regret, I spoke true to my feelings and genuinely believed in what I had said. When reading Repair, Spellman made me realize why Jess and I are still close friends. I was able to connect her analogies of two people dancing to this exact situation. It made me realize all of my apologies should be as true as the one I gave to Jess. After all, how can you forgive someone if you know they do not mean it?