Yom Kippur Blanket Apology — Sincere Or A Pointless Temporary Fix?
A sincere apology has four components. The blanket apology has none. There is a way to turn the Yom Kippur blanket apology into one that can be sincere.
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I must admit, I cringed inside the first time I heard a blanket Yom Kippur apology:
If I did anything over this past year to hurt you, I am sorry.
It was my then-partner who said it. We had been living together for almost a year by that time, and I had grown to see him as somewhat phony and hypocritical. He knew the words to say in a relationship but they seemed devoid of depth or emotional substance. I dismissed his “apology” as an example of that phenomenon because he had hurt me many times over the year in the same ways, even though we had discussed the issues more than once. That blanket apology did nothing to assuage any pain or to herald a better future.
He told me that that pre-Yom Kippur statement was a family tradition. I have since discovered that it is a tradition for many in Israel. I have seen postings of that kind of Facebook. If such a blanket apology resonates with you, that is fine. It irritates me.
A sincere apology has four components:
- Explaining in one’s own words why the behavior was hurtful to the other person. This shows that you really get it.
- A statement of regret and remorse.
- Promising not to repeat that behavior. Or promising to try and asking the other person for help when things START going wrong so you can veer back onto a healthier path together.
- Offering some kind of compensation for the hurt you caused.
The blanket apology has none of these. “If I have done anything to hurt you” does not open any doors. It seems, rather, to shut them. To me, it seems to say:
Let us foreclose on anything I did over this last year and start with a fresh slate. Everything from the past is wiped out.
A true apology, on the other hand, begins with making sure you understand what about your behaviour hurt the other person. Only then can you decide whether or not you want to apologize. Just because the other person was hurt does not mean you MUST apologize. Let me explain.
If I see that what I did was hurtful, or if it is something I can change out of consideration for the feelings of the other, I will apologize and try to modify my behaviour.
However, some people are overly sensitive; they get insulted very easily and it is hard to avoid hurting them without superhuman effort. Having to walk on eggshells does not portend well for any relationship. The resolution for such a situation is not necessarily to apologize and promise to change but to express sorrow that the other experienced hurt while stating that you are not going to do anything differently, and that you hope they will find a way to learn how to take things more in stride. Sometimes the only solution is to distance oneself from people like this, if you can, because they are often very draining to be around.
But please make sure that that is not your blanket response to other people feeling hurt by you. If you find yourself ALWAYS expressing sorrow that the other person was hurt by you and never thinking you have anything to apologize for, regardless of who that person is and what you have done, you may not be listening to others at all. In fact, this may be you not taking responsibility for your behaviours.
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Here is the only kind of blanket apology I can tolerate:
If I have done something that hurt you, tell me what it was; let us talk about it and see if there is a way to work it out and grow from it.
And it does not only have to be just before Yom Kippur.
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If the blanket apology does not work for me, what about blanket forgiveness? I talk about that here.