Acknowledging you are wrong vs apologising

I’m trying to work out if I’m in the wrong about someone who didn’t actually come out and say “sorry” for something they did. Am I obsessing and putting value on something that doesn’t actually mean anything? “Sorry” is just a word and you can apologise and say “sorry” without meaning it, so should I care if they didn’t say it?!

Two examples – recently a friend asked to come with me to an event, I had to ask permission from someone else for her to come and then we agreed on a time to meet … she never turned up, never rang … I waited, then left but I was late (and upset I had to ask someone else for a favour!). A couple of weeks go by and I’m fuming!! She did eventually ring me for a chat and I asked her about her not turning up. She made some attempt at humour about it being too early for her to wake up (it was 10am!) and I should know she’s not a morning person (I don’t!). I said “at least you could have called” … she said “yes, point taken”. She repeated the “point taken” thing a couple of times. So she’s acknowledged there was an error on her behalf (has she?) … but I hung up from the phone call thinking … but she still didn’t actually apologise for putting me out!!

Another example: my father verbally abused me … a year later he phoned me with the words “I’m sorry I said those things to you, but I meant every word I said” That’s just saying it was a bad thing but I’m not actually sorry about your feelings?

Should it matter that they haven’t really apologised? Should I just get on with my life and forget it? My father is dead so that’s in the past … but the “friend” is someone who I’m not exactly sure I want to be friends with (not just from this incident!). I apologise LOTS (I have many things to be sorry for!), I’ve even been told to stop saying “sorry” when I was learning a new task and making mistakes – of course I had to say sorry for being sorry!!

I’m not sure that I would have been OK with just ‘point taken’. It would have been nice to add ‘sorry’ at the end. Some people have a very hard time apologizing even when they know that they’ve behaved badly but they aren’t usually people that I want to spend a whole lot of time around. I don’t get what’s so hard about apologizing when you blow it. I wouldn’t worry about it a lot but I wouldn’t go out of my way to spend time with them or expect very much in the way of friendship. Maybe I’m too uptight about manners but it would bother me.

Yes. Other people’s emotions, words, and actions are outside your control. Grieve for their bad manners, acknowledge your hurt feelings, strengthen yourself so as not to put yourself in a place that others can do the same to you again, and then get over it.

This one strikes me as kind of like saying (for example), “I’m sorry you’re such a bitch.” They get the word “sorry” in, but the rest of the sentence completely negates it.

In the case of your father: I agree, he’s dead, move on with your life.

In the case of your friend: My experience is that life is too short to waste on friends who aren’t really, or who wear you down.

You need to watch the movie Stuart Saves His Family and look for the character Mea, played by Julia Sweeney. Like you, she adds “sorry” to every sentence. (And yes, she does get called on it, and says “sorry” for saying “sorry” all the time.) And like her, you probably need to figure out why you do that, and then try to cut back. Good luck!

I think I shall just be sorry next time she wants to do something and I’m not available! She has been the oddest friends - most people are happy to give and take, she does neither. So she hasn’t been like a friend who constantly wants favours, but I could never ask her for help in a time of need either!

I’ve certainly been sorry for saying things which are true (or which I believed when I said them.) The classic true answer to “do these pants make me look fat?” for example. From a parenting perspective, it can be easy to say damaging but true things to your kids, and I think it’s only a continuum to verbal abuse. My son is at the stinky teenager stage. Really, he smells disgusting, and oddly, he even smells bad right after he showers. I don’t tell him that, because I think it would hurt him and there doesn’t seem to be much he can do about it at the moment. If I did slip and tell him he stinks right after bathing, I’d be sorry I said it, but it would still be true. Does this excuse the things your father said to you? No, not if they were abusive. Truth does not give us free rein to be mean or abusive. (And that’s assuming that the things he said were even objectively true, and not just true in his own mind.)

Your friend, however, sounds like she’s rather self-absorbed and was just trying to get you to shut up without actually taking responsibility for inconveniencing you. Should you just get on with life? Of course. But you might also consider not putting yourself out for her in the future.