I have to admit, when I read the title of this book, I heard it as a disembodied voice calling me to account for some nebulous crime and asking ME, personally, Why Won’t You Apologize? I felt defensive! Even without anything or anyone specific in mind, I was sure that someone out there felt wronged by me, felt that they deserved an apology from me. Other may wonder if, instead, Harriet Lerner is advocating for them and asking that special villain, hey, Why Won’t You Apologize? Yeah, So-and-So, tell me you’re sorry! Forgiveness sounds beautiful right up until it’s time to actually forgive. Either way, this book definitely has something for everyone.
One of the best parts of Lerner’s book is the inside view it offers into other people’s scandals and private dramas. It really helps to put our own gossip into the appropriate context. Hypothetically, I can look at my divorce and be mad, or I can think, well, at least he didn’t cheat on me and get another woman pregnant... There are examples of all sorts of behavior, from the petty and comedic to the dark and deep, and how apologies were botched or done well.
Why Won’t You Apologize? has a more or less comprehensive catalog of fake, shoddy, sham pseudo-apologies with explanations of why they are D- or F-grade homework. These include the Mystifying Apology, “I’m sorry but,” “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and the rest of the gang. The explanations of exactly why non-apologies are so much worse than nothing are very helpful. At last we can clarify our feelings. Knowing these are universal tendencies and that being sloppy, lame, and uncool about apologizing applies to everyone can maybe close the loop on past hurts.
Culturally we are in a very weird place with apologies. The same person who feels slighted all the time and carries many grievances is likely also to be cruddy at apologizing, or even to be a passionate defender of the belief in never apologizing for anything, ever, at all. Being able to admit when you are wrong is a marker of adulthood and also a marker of intelligence. It’s not like refusing to apologize will keep people from noticing that you are sometimes in the wrong!
The best thing that we can do is to learn how to make graceful and effective apologies, because that’s how we demonstrate how it’s done. Give what you wish to receive. Let’s everyone read Why Won’t You Apologize? Then we can pass around our copies at Thanksgiving for some wholesome family fun.
Being too sorry can be a covert form of defensiveness.
No person can be more honest with us than they can be with their own self.
How do you find peace when the hurt you’ve suffered will never be acknowledged or repaired by the one who inflicted it?
Letting go of anger and hate requires us to give up the hope for a different past, along with the hope of a fantasized future.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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