Monday, December 14, 2009

Proper Apologies

I have been reflecting a lot about why the AA sayings get to me so much. And here's why.

When you create a mess, like the financial mess my husband has made for our family, you fix it. My husband hates it when I bring this up, but it is true.

It doesn't matter if you say you are sorry, or how many times you say you are sorry. Sorry doesn't mean anything when someone does something over and over again.

Randy Paush explains this really well in his Last Lecture. The book goes into more detail.

Giving a good apology strengthens relationships and heals wounds. Insincere apologies translate into insults. When we do not apologize for things we have done wrong to people, Pausch compares it to an “infection” that festers in relationships.

Randy Paush says that "proper apologies" have three parts:

What I did was wrong.
I feel badly that I hurt you.
How do I make you feel better?
( pg. 162, The last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, 2008)

In my mind, you make someone feel better by fixing or amending what you did wrong. Sometimes this is not possible (like when you cheat on someone). Other times, it is.

A few Thanksgivings ago, my brother-in-law showed up late with his new dog. He had not asked us if it was OK to bring a dog to our house, and we immediately asked him if it was potty trained yet. He said it was. Then, the dog peed all over our couch.

He did not help clean it up, he did not offer to have the couch cleaned. He may have said he was sorry, but it would not have mattered if he did. It would not have meant a damn thing.

Later, we had to spend $250 to have the couch professionally cleaned.

I often use this as an analogy with my husband, although it must be a bad one because it never seems to sink through.

His family does not know how to apologize. None of them do in my opinion. For all his dad's talk about "making amends", I have yet to see him make any.

So, this is why the AA slogans bug me.

When you fuck up, fix it. Don't come back with some phony saying or slogan. Sometimes there are no words that will fix things. You just have to show with your actions that you are working towards a solution and that it won't happen again.


  1. Amen.

    All the "I'm sorry's" in the world don't mean a thing if you don't follow through with your actions.

  2. There is nothing worse than an insincere apology. To me, its like letting someone spit in your face time and time again and then say some words just to give permission to do it again.
    Don't talk, ACT!