No Apologies Or So Sorry That I Got Caught

Unfortunately for them, the hooliganism of some Israir passengers on the flight to Varna had been recorded on camera, and seen all over Israel. Thus on their return the offenders decided to make an appearance on television. But this time they had their face covered and instead of apologizing  they distanced themselves from their actions. Somehow they became the victims too: “I don’t know what came over me,”  “ever since I heard that I was on camera my life has turned into a nightmare,”   “I am on tranquilizers, ” etc. This refusal to take any responsibility is a prime example of how not to apologize

Sometime ago I wrote an essay about  the meaning and importance of proper apologies:

The other day I was talking to my daughter and my son-in-law. Trying to make a point, I paraphrased the line “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” They stared at me blankly, they had never read the book Love Story, or watched the movie. Of course it wasn’t a masterpiece, but culturally speaking, the novel  was a building block of my adolescence. I believe that most people of my generation, even in Israel, had heard those lines before.

I remembered that this line was spoken by the heroine, but checked in Wikipedia and  found that  it was spoken twice in the film: once in the middle, by Jennifer Cavilleri (MacGraw’s character), when Oliver Barrett (O’Neal) is about to apologize to her for his anger; and as the last line of the film, by Oliver, when his father says “I’m sorry” after learning of Jennifer’s death. In the script the line is phrased slightly differently: “Love means not ever having to say you’re sorry.”

Clearly there is no need to discuss the veracity of the statement, but since the quote and the book/film behind it are forgotten, perhaps it is an opportunity to say something about the importance of saying “I am sorry.”  I feel that we don’t apologize often enough.

Moreover, since it is so difficult to apologize, a new type of pretend apology was invented. For me, saying  “I am sorry that you feel that way,” is one of the most infuriating forms of communication.  By saying that, you distance yourself from the act and shed any responsibility for its consequences. An example: once I invited some family members over for dinner, one of whom was vegetarian. As I wanted that guest to feel welcome I worked hard on cooking appropriate dishes. When it was time for dinner she didn’t show up, her partner came on his own. When I commented that I wished I had known ahead of time, and saved myself all the trouble of cooking, that partner said: “I am sorry that you feel hurt.” Now I was angry; he did not take responsibility for the action. It was as though all that had happened was inside my head, and  the other person had nothing to do with it. A simple “I am sorry that we didn’t let you know and you worked so hard” could have made all the difference

You don’t  have  to say that you are sorry if you never  hurt,  criticize, get angry, or slight someone, but I would like to meet that saint. Often we are careful not to hurt strangers but take for granted  those who are close to us. Since no one really believes that in true love apologies are unnecessary, I would recommend that when in doubt, apologize.  You and those around you will feel better. I doubt that they think that “saying sorry means that you don’t love them.”

And about the hooligans who offended not only the flight attendants, but everyone else, look at us when you apologize, take full responsibility for your actions and ask for forgiveness.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.