Tuesday, September 22, 2015

It is a Sin to Apologize

It is a sin to lie, even a little bit.

Vanity is a sin.

Caring what others think about you is a sin.

Materialism, that is having undue concern for material things, is a sin.

Being cowardly is a sin.

∴ Most apologies you read about in the news are sins.


At present we are reading about an actress who is apologizing for having said she is thinking twice about becoming an American citizen. This week Matt Damon is apologizing for telling some black woman about racism or something (like black people have innate knowledge which he lacks). Before that, Ariana Grande apologized for licking donuts. Celebrities are often apologizing for saying something un-PC that got recorded. The popes are constantly apologizing for misdeeds of the past - the Canadian government too. Everyone apologizes to aboriginals.

It seems to me the great engines of the Axis' war effort, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi, never apologized. Speaking of Japan, they don't care to apologize for atrocities they committed in China. But to be consistent, neither does Japan like to receive apologies for Hiroshima, etc.

On a more mundane level, we have the ever-hilarious "I'm sorry you feel that way" - type of apology, which is one better left unsaid, it seems to me.

Also, the one kids tend to use, "No offense, but..."

I guess I don't quite get why someone would want an apology. As someone of Scottish descent, would an apology from the Queen for England's depredations mean something to me? Nope. As a Catholic would an apology from her for expropriating our monasteries, churches, universities, etc., mean something to me? Nope. Am I expecting an apology from the Italian government for Nero and Diocletian? Would I want one?

Apologies are moral and significant when they depict a change of mind: "I am sorry I broke your dish when I was fooling around," would have to mean: "I will attempt not to repeat this kind of carelessness again." We call this a firm purpose of amendment. But most often it means, "I am sorry I got caught," or "I regret that this is proving unpopular," or "I regret that this might jeopardize me professionally or financially."

Those aren't apologies and they should not be considered significant to any decent person.

But they are significant to many - especially and perhaps almost solely - to the media. But they are also ways of inflicting moral slights against ideological enemies. That's all fine and good - media wants something to talk about and ideologues want moral victories over their enemies. That makes sense. It's wrong, but it makes sense. But what about other people?

What kind of person says, "Wow, the pope just apologized for the sins of various Catholic educators in the past." The kind of person, I suppose, who does not understand that the pope has no intention of ending evangelization, the conversion of people to Catholicism - and that is how many take it. They think "sorry for the abuse of certain people in our Church" means "we would never try to evangelize natives again." It doesn't mean that.

What is really in someone's heart when they apologize? That's what matters. And if you knew what was in it, would you want their apology?

Hurt feelings is treated like an intrinsic evil. It is nothing of the sort. In fact, hurt feelings are necessary in psychological maturing. A baby is outraged when he is not treated as the only thing in the world that matters. To move from that natural outlook to one, say, represented by the Great Commandment, requires a whole host of hurts. I love the Madonna House motto, "I am third." It's salient in its simplicity. It's too bad that the world wants to reject it not just subjectively but also categorically.

I think that, when we go back to the case of the Japanese, we ought to begin to think of apologies with a certain degree of moral hesitancy. We should consider that there are two kinds: good ones and bad ones. Bad ones are ones that insult a person by imagining that they can be hurt by petty things. We should feel about them as a man would were he to be lifting something light and someone asked if he needed help with it.

To be apologized to is to say that you need someone else's positive regard. If we had more self-respect, we would take this as an insult. This is turning us into a society of babies.


  1. "Ariana Grande apologized for licking donuts" - never heard of her, didn't know she licked donuts, but thanks for the laugh. (I should get her to talk to my daughter, who always licks her donuts - yum, icing!) -DM

  2. Licking donuts is important - when they are your own donuts!!! It is rude when you have not paid for them. Something I had to learn too.