Wednesday, January 28, 2009


[Fair warning – this entry is a rant.]

The world seems to be enamored of the escape clause these days. “I’m sorry, but….” Or “I’m grateful, but….” In other words: I will acknowledge what’s going on here but in no way am I responsible for my action or words, and your efforts aren’t good enough to satisfy my vanity.

The latest example I’ve seen on a grand scale is that at least one of the passengers on the recently ditched US Airways jet is contemplating a lawsuit against US Airways in order to compensate his emotional suffering as a result of the accidental loss of both engines due to a bird strike. Apparently, US Airways is responsible not only for its jets but for the natural ecosystem around them and the environment in which they fly. Uh huh. Who knew the airlines had such all-encompassing power?

We live – and have always lived – in a world in which not everything can be under the control of human beings. Accidents happen. US Airways was in no way negligent in this incident. How can anyone, in good conscience, sue them? It’s not as though the airline has been silent or is ignoring the situation. They’ve sent each passenger a check for $5,000 up front plus they’ve set up an insurance mechanism by which passengers can recover more of the replacement cost of their belongings. It won’t be perfect, but is it fair to bankrupt a corporation because Mother Nature completely screwed up the careful preparations and planning that were made for everyone’s safety?

The passenger’s lawyer is quoted -- actually quoted – as saying “We’re grateful [for US Airways efforts at restitution], but….” [meaning: it won’t be enough until we have millions of dollars]. Puh-leeze!

If you have to put the word “but” in the sentence, then you’ve negated what went before it. Thus, you are not grateful. Not at all.

Even worse than “I’m grateful, but…”is the phrase “I’m sorry, but…”. It’s a sorry excuse for an apology. In fact, it’s not an apology. An apology is an expression of regret and of taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I’m sorry, but….” does no such thing. A real apology sounds something like this (choose two): “I’m sorry. I truly regret that. I will do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” A genuine apology is a short declarative statement of regret that acknowledges the damage that was done – with nary an excuse in sight. The explanations about the situation may come up in a later conversation between the two people, but explanations become nothing more than excuses when they are attached to the apology itself. Either you are sorry or you’re not. Either you take responsibility or you don’t. The addition of “…but…” means you’re still trying to justify and excuse your actions, or, worse yet (and far too common),actually trying to place the blame on the person to whom you are ostensibly apologizing. “I’m sorry, but… [your actions were the root cause of mine, thus it’s really your fault].” Wake up! The apology isn’t about you – it’s about the person whose relationship you claim to value.

Further, it doesn’t matter what your intentions were. Whether or not you intended to cause offense or pain, the end result is the same: there IS offense and/or pain, and you were responsible for it, whether you meant for it to happen or not. Do you care about the other person? Then make a genuine apology and save the explanation for later. On the other hand, if you don’t care, then I guess the phrase “I’m sorry, but…” is perfectly correct. Because, really, you’re not.

I once had someone say to me, “I’m not going to apologize because I didn’t intend to cause a problem.” At least the person was honest, but the truth is, whether he/she intended it or not, there was damage done. And that damage has yet to be undone because this person thinks their intentions somehow trump their actions.

I am completely unapologetic about this issue. Take responsibility and make your sentiments genuine, please! As a society, we’ve devolved to an extremely low level of personal accountability and an even lower level of gratitude. It’s pathetic and it is no wonder we have such a problem living together peaceably. All is vanity (so says Ecclesiastes 1:2). How sad.

[Okay, rant over.]


Mike, Alice, and Hank the DOG said...

I so agree and no buts about it!

Christy said...

Wow - you go, Catherine! My sentiments exactly.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Well said.

When i think of that wonderful crew saving everybody's life, to think of someone suing nearly makes me cry. The plaintiff is responsible either way, but it would not surprise me if his lawyer instigated this :

"Don't feel bad, lawsuits are standard. Others will sue, why shouldn't you, it's how world operates. Sure i'm sure."

Blah blah blah. All with visions of the millions he, the lawyer, will make. Betcha he gets 80% of anything.

This world has gone mad.