I’ve written before about fake apologies that don’t cut it, such as “I’m sorry if anyone was offended…” when the perpetrator knows very well she did or said something offensive.
But there’s a flip side. Is it possible to apologize without saying, “I’m sorry?” I think it is. In fact, sometimes the most sincere apology comes without words but by making amends.
Say a neighbor backs into your car. She knocks on the door and says, “I just hit your car. I wasn’t paying attention. Of course I want to pay for the damage. I’m calling my insurance company right now.” That’s a perfectly good apology in my book. She’s taking responsibility and trying to make amends.
And the offense was unintentional.
When I was 6 years old my dad still smoked. One day he playfully swept me up into his arms, and my shoulder brushed the cigarette in his mouth. “Ouch!” I said. I’ll never forget the pain in Dad’s eyes as he kissed the burn to try to “make it well.” I had a true epiphany that I clearly remember. I thought, How strange. It hardly hurts at all when someone is sorry. Dad didn’t say he was sorry, but I knew he was in my deepest six-year-old self.