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The unapologetic apology. It’s a thing. It’s a pretty common thing, actually, and I hate it. Rob Ford just issued an unapologetic apology to Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale for implying he was a pedophile on national TV… and Dale has rightly rejected it, and will continue suing the mayor.

Megyn Kelly, on Fox News, went on a bizarre rant concerning the ethnicity of Jesus Christ and Santa Claus was was required to issue an unapologetic apology which included the phrase “as I’ve learned in the past two days, that is far from settled.” (No Megyn, it is settled: Christ was a semitic Jew, and St. Nicholas was a Greek; both of them were probably pretty swarthy. In any case, I’m not entirely clear what their skin tone has to do with their respective impacts on history.)

There are innumerable examples of unapologetic apologies in our modern culture, typically issued by politicians or public figures who messed up (or just got caught) and who are mainly apologizing for the sake of appearances. A good rule of thumb: when an apology contains the words “I apologize if…” then this is an unapologetic apology. You can tune the rest out.

My opinion is, if you fuck up, you fix it. Often, that fixing requires acknowledging that you screwed up, acknowledging the other person’s feelings, and then taking concrete steps to resolve the error. An apology may contain an explanation, but it should never include an excuse. So when you say, as Rob Ford recently did, that you’re “sorry” and then in the very next breath blame somebody else — i.e. “the word I did not say has been ascribed to me by the media” — then you’re making excuses and not apologizing.

(But then Rob Ford has never been particularly sincere in his apologies, has he?)

This cultural habit of issuing unapologetic apologies has really watered down the meaning of the words “I’m sorry”. It’s become a throwaway gesture, meaningless and shallow. And that’s what I hate about it. The words no longer mean anything… you have to show your remorse through action. And I don’t see a lot of that in our culture. There’s a lot of talk and not much follow-through.

For the record, I apologize when I fuck up, and I try not to apologize unless I mean it. If you think I’ve done something wrong and I’m not apologizing for it, that’s because I’m pretty sure I’m in the right. You’re going to have to convince me that I was wrong… and you’re just going to have to trust that I’ve got enough self-respect and honesty to acknowledge it. Anything else is just making noise.

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