Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Sorry, sorry..."

Over at First Things, Amanda Shaw gives a brief overview of Theodore Dalrymple's (what a marvelous name!) article on False Apology Syndrome. While it takes a certain strength of character called, I believe, pride, to agree wholeheartedly, I think there's a lot of truth in what he says. False Apology Syndrome is the tendency to confess the sins of others rather than one's own sins: E.g., perpetual (note the "perpetual") need to apologize for Galileo, the Crusades, and the Inquisition. E.g., the habit of explaining your bad choices in terms of "my father was a harsh man..." I love it. Goshdarnnit, just own up! Remove the log and then the splinter, what ho!

Here's Dalrymple:

"False Apology Syndrome is a way of judging others to avoid judging ourselves–of shrugging moral responsibility. It fosters a perpetrator–victim mentality: “For what can I do wrong to compare with the wrongs that my ancestors suffered at the hands of your ancestors? How dare you even mention it, you hypocrite!” For that matter, what could I do wrong to compare with the wrongs my ancestors committed? I must say, it’s a reassuring mode of thought."

Of course, I apologize if you don't agree. My father is a crotchety old fellow, after all, and my mother a genius of a housewife. And I am what I am, therefore, I am a sinner...

3 comments:

Modest Mama said...

Maybe this all starts with forcing children to say sorry when they have no idea what empathy is. Or maybe it's late and I am trying to saound smarter than I really am...

mumsie said...

Your father is a crotchedy old fellow? He does admit to love saying "NAAAHHH!" But "old"? The genius mother I gladly acknowledge....

e said...

I firmly believe in teaching children how to correctly apologize. We developed a formula for our family before they could really begin to talk. Step 1: "I'm sorry for [verb+ing]" Step 2: And here's where Ray and I differ-- Ray's:"I will not do it again." Mine: "I will try my best not to do it again." (There's a continual discussion of which is more appropriate.) Step 3: "Please forgive me." Step 4: response: "I forgive you." (VERY important here b/c we noticed that so many times when someone apologizes the other person just says "It's OK," as if to shrug off the validity or the severity of the trespass.) Step 5: Hug or physical connection.
It seems to work well. The kids need coaching sometimes, but overall they've acquired the skill of a sufficient apology. Merely saying "sorry" in my house doesn't cut it! I'm hoping this helps them when they reach the age of reason and must make a good confession.
I've always struggled with receiving the false apology, (pointing finger here at others' failures,) "I'm sorry you got upset..." Insult to injury! Now, there was one time that I thought it ROCKED. And that is when Pope Benedict XVI offered the false, but necessary, apology to the unfoundedly inflamed Muslim community about his comments at Regensburg, "I'm sorry that my comment upset you." Now that's the Holy Spirit!