Here’s what happened: You did something bad, or wrong, or mean-spirited, and it hurt someone’s feelings or negatively affected them in some way. Now has come the time, in most civilized, compassionate societies, to say you’re sorry. I know, it sucks! I’m the most pretentious/proud/stubborn human being on the planet — no one hates apologizing more than I do. It goes against my very principle of being infallible 100 percent of the time. But sometimes, we just have to do it. And there are certain words that are kind of like taking a giant handful of sea salt and rubbing it in the metaphorical wound left by your wrongdoing, few more so than a fake, disingenuous apology. Here are a few examples of said fauxpologies:
- I’m sorry, but you were wrong, too.
- I’m sorry your feelings are hurt.
- I’m sorry you feel that way.
- If you want me to say I’m sorry, I will.
- If it makes you feel better, I’ll say I’m sorry.
- I’m sorry we disagree.
- I’m sorry you can’t take a joke.
- I’m sorry you are so angry right now.
Seriously, what the hell are those? What is the point of vomiting a false apology all over someone if the sentiment you’re actually conveying is one more along the lines of “I hate you, I hate the fact that I have to admit I was wrong, and so I’m going to grit my teeth every step of the way of this bullshit”? It’s not as though anyone is going to be magically satisfied by a response that means absolutely zero in terms of taking responsibility or learning something.
“Oh, he’s sorry that I feel that way?? He thinks that he did nothing wrong, but he does think I’m essentially a 5’6 toddler who gets overly emotional for ridiculous slights and needs to be coddled with the conversational equivalent of a pacificer covered with spikes? I feel so much better now!”
– No one, ever
It’s not that a fake apology is just unsatisfying; it’s insulting. It’s saying that not only are you not going to dignify the person you wronged with an actual admission of culpability or remorse, it’s that you’re also presenting them with a facsimile of said admission that they now have to respond to as though it were real. You’re putting the ball back in their court with no actual improvement on your side. Now what are they supposed to do? They’re pretty much forced now to take the asshole reigns back and call you out: “Nope, that apology was bullshit, and I’m not going to accept that.” Who wants to have to say that? Why are you making other people say that?
Unfortunately, society has not fully caught up with the whole “fake apologies being an insult to our collective intelligence” thing quite yet, so we still tend to accept them — even from people we should demand better from. Think of how many politicians we allow to get by with a slippery worm of an “I’m sorry.” We know that they’re being facetious jerks, and we aren’t fooled by their warlock coven of a PR team, but we accept it. We should be better than this in our daily lives. We should demand of ourselves and of others to say something we truly mean. Because if you’re actually not sorry, and aren’t planning on changing, and didn’t learn anything — you could, at the very least, say as much. You owe the person you upset the decency of being honest with them, if nothing else. Just grow a fraction of a spine and say, “Nope, you’re an emotional peasant and I’m not gracing you with my remorse. Enjoy crying into your Snuggie,” or something of the like.
It might not be as socially palatable, but at least it’s real. No one is fooled by your fauxpology — no one. You might not get called out on it, but you know what it is. You know exactly what you’re doing when you weasel your way out of actually having to take some responsibility. No one likes having to admit they’re wrong, but if you’re going to skip that crucial part of the process, at least own up to it. Because what you’re really saying when you say “I’m sorry you feel that way” is “I’m a giant, passive-agressive asshat, and I want everyone within earshot to know it.” And trust me, we know it.