Although my teacher’s leaving a bag of Skittles unattended on her desk led to my thievery, I was told to apologize for succumbing to my sweet tooth. But I refused. I wasn’t sorry at all and therefore felt an apology wasn’t necessary, which is why I didn’t need a book to tell me that all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. As a child I learned the one universal truth adults conveniently choose to ignore — saying you’re sorry doesn’t really count as an apology if you’re only sorry because you got caught.
In a perfect world, we would be sincere in our apologies because we honestly felt bad for whatever wrong we did and not just because we got caught red-handed with a mouth full of delicious Skittles. But in the real world, apologies only come after the fact and are generally oozing with insincerity and forced regret. Children are constantly coerced into giving apologies and then are berated by their parents if they don’t seem sincere enough. The irony is that once children become adults, the act of apologizing is more than enough — sincerity is apparently implied. What the world needs now is not love but the truth, even if we can’t handle it.
The truth would be liberating and far more sincere than the lies we perpetuate when we give a disingenuous apology born out of the shame of getting caught. Imagine a world where instead of wearing a hangdog expression while delivering an empty apology we instead owned up to our misdeeds.
When traveling through India a few years back, a taxicab driver at the New Delhi airport tried to charge me double what the government-mandated taxi fee was. When I called him on his lie, instead of apologizing, he praised me for being smart enough to see through his deception.
Instead of smacking his face for trying to cheat me, I felt like shaking his hand for being honest about his dishonesty. But then I remembered he did try to scam me and instead checked to make sure I still had my wallet.
In the United States, we are so willing to forgive and forget that in some cases we actually admire people for apologizing and tend to forget the atrocity they committed in the first place. It’s one thing to apologize for accidently bumping into someone on the sidewalk, but how exactly does one justify an apology for something they meant to do? When former president Bill Clinton was caught quite literally with his pants down for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, he, according to The New York Times, gave an apology in which he admitted that “I have sinned” in such an emotional manner that it brought religious leaders to their feet. But apparently one apology wasn’t quite enough because, according to The Times, he “publicly apologized at least half a dozen times for the affair, later acknowledging his original statement lacked the contrition many Americans were looking for.”
Perhaps Clinton felt he had to issue an apology for each time he “sinned” with Lewinsky, but the real issue at hand was whether he was apologizing for adultery or for getting caught. Clinton should’ve owned up to his infidelity by not apologizing to the public for something he clearly meant to do and simply admitting that as president he enjoyed taking advantage of the many different opportunities that arise when entertaining young female interns in the Oval Office. Instead he pandered to the will of an American public that is so easily swayed by an apology — or, depending on the sin, multitudes of apologies — as though it actually changes anything.
Clinton, along with most adult Americans, should be more like the truth-seeking children of our country, who balk at having to apologize for something they aren’t the least bit sorry for. Instead of encouraging our children to lie about being sorry, we should be thanking them for teaching us a lesson about transparency, before sending them to bed without dinner.
I may not have grown up to be President of the United States, but at least I know better than to lie about being sorry for stealing Skittles, which by the way, I would do again in a heartbeat.