I’ve been watching a lot of Sex and the City lately, and this seems like an episode they should have made.
I hate a fauxpology. That being said, I’ve offered up my share of them in the past. Guilty. But I won’t be doing it anymore. I’ll explain what one is, of course, and why it’s supremely inferior to its more honest cousin, the nopology.
A very good friend of mine has a pet peeve, particularly in relationships – she hates it when her partner says “I’m sorry” and hasn’t the vaguest idea what they’re apologizing for. I never really got how spot on she was until recently, and even though this scenario’s not quite the same thing as a fauxpology, the reason for her frustration is the same as mine. Maybe we’ll label her variant the I don’t knowpology. By the way, she snuffs these out by asking the apologizer what they’re sorry for. When the inevitable deer-in-headlights look, slightly open mouth, and silence follow, she knows what she’s dealing with. It’s important to point out that my friend is a delightful, loving, and happy person. She really is. This isn’t a bitter, angry woman. She’s just really smart, and I didn’t realize how smart until I identified the fauxpology, and all the harm it causes.
So, back to my own peccadillo: the fauxpology. Let me dissect it, first. A fauxpology is when we tell someone we’re sorry, but what we’re really thinking is that what we did was either totally the other person’s fault, completely justifiable, or just plain not wrong. It’s the apology that leaves our lips while we roll the invisible eyes inside our smug and condescending head, knowing we’re being the “bigger person” for doing whatever it takes to “end” the conflict. See, no. (And by the way, I just went and changed what used to be “you and your” to “we and our” to ensure that I included myself in the group of penitent perps.)
Problem number one: We’re lying. Because we’re not sorry – if we’ve done nothing wrong, or nothing unreasonable, or only something because of what the other person did – then what do we have to be sorry for? Yeah, nothing. A big, fat, nothing. So we shouldn’t lie. We shouldn’t say we’re sorry if we aren’t sorry. It makes the other person think that we get it and that we truly regret the hurt we caused – that we are taking responsibility for the pain we created – when it’s all just an act. Not good.
Problem number two: Fauxpologies create resentment. Each and every time we bite our tongues, tell ourselves how awesome and superior we are for apologizing (even though it’s totally not our fault), a little man with a big boulder to add to the chip on our shoulder appears. We think we’re being the bigger person; that we’re doing everyone and the relationship a favor – but we’re doing harm. Real harm, to all three. We might even truly believe that our intentions are pure; that we’re acting for the greater good of the relationship by lying about our feelings. But once that little man hits the tipping point with his boulders of bitterness, people who used to stare at each other all googly-eyed start trying to run one another over with their cars. There’s a whole Oxygen TV series built around exactly this phenomenon. Seriously.
Problem number three: The fauxpology makes us a coward. We’re not being brave or direct. We’re not saying how we truly feel. We’re not giving the other person a chance to hear what’s going on with us, when maybe -gasp – if they did, they could even apologize themselves! We may very well be depriving the other person of a growth opportunity, of a mirror in which to view their own behavior. We’ve tried the case in our head and decided that the other person’s guilty, but we’re going to be a really nice judge and spare them the death penalty. Meanwhile, the other person didn’t even know they were a defendant. This sucks.
I could go on and on about the maladies inherent in the fauxpology. Instead, I plead with the world: abolish it. Please, if we can’t dig deep enough in a given moment to be truly sorry for causing another person pain – right, wrong, or indifferent – then let’s agree to choose the nopology. It’s more honest. It’s real. Nobody’s operating under any illusions.
On a better day, maybe we can find it within us to put aside the analysis and just be truly sorry (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sorry…notice it doesn’t say anything here about “eating crow” or “admitting to total failure as a human being” or even “acknowledging that one is wrong”) that something we did made someone else’s heart hurt.
And we can offer the gift of a genuine apology.