We’ve seen a lot of apologies in this presidential election season. While there are psychological studies and theories addressing apology and remorse, I want to relate these apologies to something I learned while in therapy. One of the most meaningful and useful things that I have ever learned is the three steps of an apology:
First, you have to be sincerely apologizing. You have to be remorseful and regretful for what you’ve done. If not, you are not apologizing.
Second, you are saying that you will not do it again, or, at the very least, will try very hard not to do it again. After all, whatever offense you are apologizing for was most certainly an action of some kind, so how can you be regretful if you just do it again? You are implicitly promising to endeavor not to repeat the offense.
Third, you are going to make it up to the person somehow. You’ve hurt someone in some way by what you’ve done, and you must now make restitution. Often, the only restitution needed is to be contrite, regretful, and sincere. Otherwise, a small gesture of contrition will most often do.
When we see officials and celebrities make the false apology, we know they are none of these things. They are simply playing to the rubes who are using motivated reasoning to argue against the detractors of whatever muckity muck is “apologizing” for whatever heinous things they’ve done… I’m looking at you Anthony Weiner! Great example, isn’t it? His marriage might still be intact if he could have refrained from repeating his sexting habits, right?
And, of course, we are all looking at Donald Trump! Who was not sincere, regretful, or contrite when he “apologized” for his Access Hollywood sexual assault confession! Let’s be clear, he confessed to committing sexual assault as has been demonstrated by the women falling over each other to make their accusations!
Donald Trump was certainly not promising never to say degrading things about women again! He immediately disparaged women after that. If nothing else, he denied having forced his tongue down the People magazine’s Natasha Stoynoff’s throat by saying, Have you seen her? Take a look at her and tell me what you think! Jeez, what a mensch.
Donald Trump certainly isn’t trying to make it up to America by continuing to sling mud and dirt and disparagement at every living thing that moves within his purview. The Clinton’s. His accusers. Paul Ryan. Other leading Republicans.
The Republican Party. He not only is disparaging these people and institutions, he is undercutting our entire democracy! By dragging Clinton down as far as he can and de-legitimizing her election — the election his rigged! — and her presidency, he is hurting not only the entire country, but the world. He is making it more difficult for our country to heal the political polarization that has afflicted our federal government.
By attacking the establishment, however you feel about the established politicians, mainstream media, or business interests, he is de-legitimizing their positions and making them less effective, too.
Donald Trump is truly undermining rule of law in the United States, and if we continue to let him, we truly are the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid.