The Dissemination of Thought

Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's intelligent…

Apologies, excuses and the verbal finger

with 8 comments

It’s funny how a seemingly innocuous action – or in some cases, actions – can compel one to do something they hadn’t planned on doing.

For me, the aforementioned actions were those of the rude, irritating woman who tried to cut in front of about seven people at the supermarket this afternoon.

I hadn’t planned on writing anything on my day off, but the behaviour of the woman – let’s call her the Bitch with the Handbasket – made me question at what stage people stopped apologising altogether.

When did ludicrous excuses replace sincere apologies as a response to fucking up?

I watched the Bitch with the Handbasket creep into my peripheral vision while I was waiting to be served in the express lane. I saw her eyeball the queue and stood stunned as she nonchalantly pushed in front of me and acted as though she’d been there the entire time.

After subtlety suggesting to her that she needed to move to the back of the line, I couldn’t believe her retort: “Huh? Oh, I didn’t see you there. Is there a line?”

What the hell? What part of my handbasket-carrying, six-foot-five frame didn’t you see? Did you fail to notice the half a dozen shoppers behind me who are now scowling at you?

As I asked myself what her problem was, it dawned on me that her excuses and ignorance were representative of the attitudes of many: we’ve become a society that accepts reasons why in lieu of apologies.

People seem to have forgotten how to apologise. In the rare instances where an apology is offered, it’s seldom genuine. Somehow, offering a feeble, disingenuous explanation has been deemed socially acceptable.

It’s got to stop.

In addition to the Bitch with the Handbasket, I’ve recently witnessed first-hand another example of society’s proclivity to throw out a thinly-veiled vindication instead of an apology.

Without going into specifics, the players in question were out of line and exercised poor judgement. Whether or not a private apology has been offered to the women involved is a matter for them. All I can comment on intelligently is that publicly, the only responses from the individuals at the centre of the allegations have been excuses. Lots of excuses. A few of them have even suggested that it’s me who needs to apologise for writing the story.

How hard is it to admit that you have erred?

I’ll admit it when I screw up. When I do make a mistake, it’s usually a big one. Like when I referred to the wrong team as last season’s premiers in a recent grand final preview. Oops. I could have made excuses, but what would have been the point? I made a mistake; it was as simple as that. The newspaper ran a correction and the earth continued to turn on its axis.

An excuse is not an apology. An apology conveys regret, remorse or sorrow, while an excuse tends to indicate the person blabbering it isn’t genuinely contrite. To me, an excuse is the verbal equivalent of giving someone the finger after you’ve wronged them.

If you’ve done something you regret, show some intestinal fortitude and admit you were wrong. If you aren’t remorseful for your actions you shouldn’t feel compelled to apologise, but please don’t offer up some idiotic excuse for doing whatever it was that you did. The best excuse in the world will never trump a simple, sincere acknowledgement that you screwed up.


I’m not going to apologise for this post because even though you’re sorry for reading it, I don’t regret writing it. As for excuses, where would you like me to start?


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8 Responses

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  1. It’s all so narcissistic. They just want to see what they can get away with before anyone makes an issue out of it. (Like milking government benefits)
    People do this all the time here in South Italy, Italians have no concept of how to form a line or act civilised. When it happens to me, I never let them get away with it ie. “Hey! Am I invisible? I was waiting.” or “You must be really important huh?… Needed in surgery? National emergency?” Heaven forbid you try and get on a plane with general seating, or attempt to serve yourself at a buffet table at a wedding. I was once body-checked away from the last piece of shrimp.
    jerks. But they try and turn it around like they are innocent and I am the asshole. Ah well let it be known then, I am still not going to take any of that shit.
    Good on you for saying something, somebody needs to.
    (ps. send me a tweet and remind me to vote!)

    Cakes McCain

    April 10, 2012 at 19:59

  2. Agree 100%! Integrity is hard to come by these days, that’s for sure!


    April 10, 2012 at 22:55

  3. One of my biggest pet peeves is when excuses take the place of apologies. Thanks so much for posting on it. It’s like you read my mind, which is a scary thought in and of itself.


    April 11, 2012 at 03:07

  4. Yay! You entered yourself! In the blog competition way! 🙂


    April 11, 2012 at 13:44

  5. I couldn’t agree more– this needs to be said!! Some people’s personalities categorically prohibit them from admitting fault, and the best you’ll get is an excuse– like you said. I’m getting so tired of this! Lately, my solution is to just extricate said people from my life, if possible. We deal the best we can with family and co-workers like this, with blessed detachment. Like you, I admit my faults. It’s only fair to hold others to the same standard. Deflecting blame onto others is immature and unacceptable, and very much a “verbal finger”— perfect analogy!

    Unrelenting Amee

    April 17, 2012 at 03:42

  6. Reblogged this on unrelentingamee and commented:
    My first re-blog ever– but this is a vital message relevant to us all. Humility is important, and something we all need to cultivate. Or in the case of the supermarket lady, basic consideration!

    Unrelenting Amee

    April 17, 2012 at 04:03

  7. You just became my first re-blog, ever. Congrats! 🙂

    Unrelenting Amee

    April 17, 2012 at 04:04

  8. I read this awhile ago, but didn’t get to comment (I really like that I have an iPhone now, but for some reason the WordPress app has crashed on me lately when I try to check it on my lunch break). Anyways, just want to say that I appreciate your distinction between an excuse and an apology. Remorse is the key. Although, I must say, one can always feel remorse and express that sentiment, but others may not always accept that apology. At lease we can apologize, though. Also, I like your post-it note visual. (I especially like it because I use post-its CONSTANTLY. I may be addicted- I even have a few I reuse to conserve them, like “waiting on a reply”). LOL.


    April 18, 2012 at 13:12

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