When Apologies Are Harmful

Unless someone changes their ways, their apology is worse than worthless.

Words are easy. They require the exercising of a few brain waves, followed by the coordination of tongue and throat and diaphragm to blow air through the larynx and shape the resulting sounds on their way out of the head. One can speak a great many words from an astonishingly small number of calories.

But change is hard.

True change starts in the heart. It may not even be immediately apparent, but time will show its truth. It also requires a change of actions. Without change of heart, there will be no lasting change of actions. Without changed actions, there is no real change of heart.

An apology gives hope. Hope that the person will change their ways. Hope that the harm will cease. Hope that life will be better from now on.

But when a person follows their apology with more hurt and harm, they crush that hope. They directly add insult to injury. On top of the original hurt (as well as subsequent harm), they add the pain of shattered expectations.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12)

The apology can become a form of gaslighting. “I said I was sorry. Why do those actions still affect you?”

It would be better not to apologize than to make a dead-fish apology that means nothing more than the warm air that wafts it to the ears of the one offended. At least the harmed person would know what to expect. At least they wouldn’t have their hopes dashed again and again.

Believe a person’s actions more than you believe their words. Because an apology with no change of actions is worse than no apology at all.


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