It's safe to say that Clippers soon-to-be-former owner Donald Sterling is a poster boy for how not to apologize. Surely, it can't be that hard, even if you are a multi-billionaire who likes to parade around with strange-looking chicks on your arm. (I'm sorry; that was an uncalled-for and mean remark.)
What I just did there was a proper apology. I could have said "I'm sorry that that offended you," but that isn't an apology; that's an expression of regret that you took offense. Everyone hear the difference?
Half-assed apologies are in vogue these days. The problem isn't that most of them are insincere -- we have all gotten pretty good at spotting those -- but it's when the apology is actually not even an apology but just an impersonation of one.
To wit: I recently complained to my husband that he wasn't helping out enough around the house, especially after we agreed he was going to straighten up the laundry room last Thursday and then didn't. "I'm sorry you feel that way," he told me. The howl began in my stomach and by the time it reached my throat it probably could be heard in New Jersey.
Why is he apologizing for my feelings? Why not apologize for his own actions, or in this case, his own lack of actions in the laundry room?
My DH might have been following in the steps of Pharrell, who recently graced the cover of Elle U.K. magazine in a Native American headdress instead of his trademark Vivienne Westwood hat. When the Internet collectively noted it was #NotHappy with him, here's what the singer said in a statement to Buzzfeed: "I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry." Good apology except for not saying what he was genuinely sorry for -- which I suspect might have been the bad advice his agent gave him to pose for the cover wearing a sacred tribal headdress. I also didn't hear any amends being made, perhaps donating his cover proceeds to convincing the Washington Redskins to change its name? For bad judgment alone, I'd have sentenced Pharrell to listen to "Happy" nonstop for 24 hours and another 24 hours of "Let It Go" just for good measure.
And then there is the perennial child who we love to hate: Justin Bieber. He apologizes every time another video surfaces showing him singing a racist parody of one of his songs. Apparently as a 14 year old, he liberally used the N-word -- something he sincerely regrets as a now mature 20 year old who was recently arrested for driving under the influence, driving with an expired license and resisting arrest after drag racing down in Florida.
And how do we know he's sorry? This is what he said: "Facing my mistakes from years ago has been one of the hardest things I've ever dealt with. But I feel now that I need to take responsibility for those mistakes and not let them linger. ... At the end of the day I just need to step up and own what I did. ... Once again I am sorry for all those I have let down and offended."
He is sorry for letting people down and offending them? That's it? He's not sorry for breaking the law, risking the lives of other people or anything else even close? And as for that nasty N-word stuff: He'd like us all to please just chalk it up to youthful indiscretion. "I just hope that the next 14-year-old kid who doesn't understand the power of these words does not make the same mistakes I made," Mr. Role Model added.
As far as apologies go, it's pretty weak. Kind of reminds me of the guys who say they "deeply regret" something. A real apology shouldn't be about you, it's about who you done wrong.