A Better Way to Say Sorry

Originally posted at Cuppacocoa

Sorry“Say sorry to your brother.”

“But he’s the one who–”

“Say it!” you insist, an edge of warning in your voice.

He huffs, rolls his eyes to the side and says flatly, “Sorry.”

“Say it like you mean it,” you demand.

“Sorrrrry,” he repeats, dragging out the word slowly with bulging eyes and dripping insincerity.

You sigh in defeat and turn to #2, “Now tell him you forgive him.”

“But he doesn’t even mean it!”

“Just say it!”

“iforgiveyou…” he mutters, looking down to the side dejectedly.

“Now be nice to each other.”

Harumphy silence.

This scenario might sound all too familiar– if not from your experiences as a parent, then at least your own experiences as a child. It’s easy to see how it isn’t always that effective. You, the teacher/parent/authority, probably benefit from it the most because now at least you can feel like you did something about it, allowing you to close the case. Problem solved… now stop bickering. You know inside, however, that the offended still feels bitter, because the apology was not sincere. And while it may seem like the offender got off easy– not even having to show proper remorse or use a sincere tone–he is actually the one who loses out the most. He not only learns a poor lesson that he can get away with lies and empty words, but does not have the opportunity to experience true reconciliation and restoration of relationships. He will probably continue inflicting similar offenses, feel less remorse than he should, and undergo less positive character change than he could have.

But what alternative do you have? What else are you supposed to do? It’s not like you can force a genuine apology and repentant heart out of him, right?

Actually, you can. It’s not 100%, but it’s a lot more % than the scenario you read above. I first heard this in a teacher training program. The speaker started off with a rant about how No one teaches children how to apologize properly these days. My ears perked up, because I didn’t really know of any way to teach them other than to… just make them say it: Sorry. I knew it was not very effective, but I hadn’t considered other methods. So I held my pen at the ready, and as he listed off the “proper way to apologize,” I scribbled his words down verbatim:

I’m sorry for…
This is wrong because…
In the future, I will…
Will you forgive me?

It made a lot of sense. It seemed a little tedious, but the more I thought about it, the more it became clear that each component was necessary. Even though that was all he said about it that day, it became an integral part of my classroom culture for years to come. That day, I went back to my classroom and got some stiff cardboard and wrote the prompts clearly, labeling the poster, “How to Say Sorry.” The next afternoon, I talked with the children about apologizing properly. We went over the importance of tone of voice and body language; when I used my brattiest voice and spat out, “Well FINE then, SOR-RY!” they all laughed, because the insincerity was so obvious and the scene so familiar. I demonstrated the importance of body language, crossing my arms and rolling my eyes to the side as I mumbled, “Sorry.” When I asked if it seemed like I meant it, they all gleefully cried out “NOOOO!!!” in unison. I did a few more impressions of pathetic “sorries,” and then we got down to business. I shared with them that apologies were pointless and meaningless if people didn’t feel like the offender meant it, and if the offender didn’t actually plan to change in the future. Then I went over the poster I had made, and outlined the following points:

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Couple Bitter About Twins Sparks Internet Outrage

By  | September 6, 2013 | Independent Journal Review

2-little-twins-baby-sleepingA few months ago an anonymous couple set the internet ablaze when they posted dual essays discussing their disappointment after discovering they were pregnant with twins.

In the father’s original post he explains why he and his wife decided to go with IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments to conceive:

We desperately tried to get pregnant for nearly two years, first the natural way, then via several IUIs (intrauterine inseminations). But getting pregnant when you’re both pushing 40 is sort of like trying to blow up the Death Star; it’s possible, but you need the perfect shot.

The couple chose to implant two embryos to increase their odds. Naturally they were overjoyed to discover the procedure had been a success. When they discovered that both embryos had successfully implanted? Not so much.

My initial reaction was full of disappointment, anger, fear, and guilt…As horrible as this might sound, we found ourselves wishing these twins away.

The comments section lit up with angry messages from readers accusing the anonymous writer of being ungrateful and selfish.

Feeling her husband was being treated unfairly, the mother took to the blogosphere to give her own side of the story. The expectant mother echoed her husband’s frustration with impending twins.

While I am grateful we are pregnant, I am changed…The “glass half full” person is no longer. The twins are coming fast, and I don’t feel a sense of joy…We only wanted one…Now, seven months into my pregnancy — and in therapy — I still feel remorse and am terrified of our future.

Her comment section was not much lighter than her husband’s.

I think the truth of this story goes way behind a couple of selfish millennials complaining about their abundance of blessings. This is a larger symptom of a society that has now raised entire generations of children who believe they are entitled to whatever they want whenever they want without consequence. This anonymous couple is nothing more than the Saved By the Bell version of Occupy Wallstreet.

These people are very close to my own age. We were raised by the children of the 60′s who were still high on modern feminism and sit-ins. We were taught that a woman can have it all. Nay, that she is ENTITLED to it all – the perfect career, the perfect marriage, the perfect family. We were raised to believe that “finding your own path” was a necessary precursor to having a family.

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Robert Oscar Lopez: I was raised by lesbians, and I oppose gay marriage

by Robert Oscar Lopez | Tue Aug 14, 2012 11:17 EST | LifeSiteNews

August 14, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) – Between 1973 and 1990, when my beloved mother passed away, she and her female romantic partner raised me. They had separate houses but spent nearly all their weekends together, with me, in a trailer tucked discreetly in an RV park 50 minutes away from the town where we lived. As the youngest of my mother’s biological children, I was the only child who experienced childhood without my father being around.

After my mother’s partner’s children had left for college, she moved into our house in town. I lived with both of them for the brief time before my mother died at the age of 53. I was 19. In other words, I was the only child who experienced life under “gay parenting” as that term is understood today.

Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.

Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

My peers learned all the unwritten rules of decorum and body language in their homes; they understood what was appropriate to say in certain settings and what wasn’t; they learned both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine social mechanisms.

Even if my peers’ parents were divorced, and many of them were, they still grew up seeing male and female social models. They learned, typically, how to be bold and unflinching from male figures and how to write thank-you cards and be sensitive from female figures. These are stereotypes, of course, but stereotypes come in handy when you inevitably leave the safety of your lesbian mom’s trailer and have to work and survive in a world where everybody thinks in stereotypical terms, even gays.

I had no male figure at all to follow, and my mother and her partner were both unlike traditional fathers or traditional mothers. As a result, I had very few recognizable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others. Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated others easily. Gay people who grew up in straight parents’ households may have struggled with their sexual orientation; but when it came to the vast social universe of adaptations not dealing with sexuality—how to act, how to speak, how to behave—they had the advantage of learning at home. Many gays don’t realize what a blessing it was to be reared in a traditional home.

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H/T Teresa Harke from the Oregon Family Council