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Refusing to Apologize for Your Mistakes Paradoxically Makes You Seem More Flawed

·441 words·3 mins

We meet up to have coffee after a difficult evening. It was our first fight as friends. Looking back at it with a cooler head and a bit of distance, I can see where we both messed up. The miscommunication is glaring me in the face. Obvious now that I’m calmer.

I see what I got wrong. I see what she got wrong. And I’m ready to take responsibility for my part of it.

And I do so, readily, within moments of getting our drinks and sitting down. I lay it all out. And I apologize, sincerely, for my part of things.

She thinks upon it for a second and then answers, “I accept your apology.”

I wait for her to admit to her side of things. Because today she’s not disputing what I’m saying. She doesn’t disagree with my accounting this morning.

But she doesn’t say she’s sorry. Instead, she launches into a litany that lets me know that her pronouncement that she accepted my apology was perhaps a little premature. She walks me through her hurt, her entire thought process, her inner life surrounding the conflict.

I do my best to validate her feelings. And I tack on, “And that’s why I’m sorry.”

“I accept your apology,” she says again.

Perhaps she doesn’t realize I would like an apology, too, I think. I mirror what she has just done. I lead her through my thought process, underscoring the emotional pain and confusion, how things she said and did hit me wrong.

When I’m done, she shrugs and says, “I don’t know what you want me to do about it.”

She does not apologize. I have apologized twice.

I’m not sure why she’s not taking responsibility for her part in things, but it’s shocking, particularly as she doesn’t disagree with me that she acted inappropriately as well. That she, too, jumped to conclusions.

For some reason, she doesn’t want to take any responsibility.

Part of me wonders if she doesn’t want to take the blame because she’s afraid to appear imperfect. The irony is that by doing so, she comes off as way more flawed — and less trustworthy — than if she had met me a little closer to the middle.


That happened many years ago. We were close before this happened. I never trusted her after that enough to be that close again. Over the years that passed, other people would come to me and tell me similar stories. They’d have misunderstandings with her, mutually caused ones, and she’d refuse to apologize for her part in things.

Slowly but surely, practically everyone I knew tired of her.


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