Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Repentance, is all about asking others for forgiveness. But that’s hardly a simple task. Sometimes – ok, often – apologies are tied up with all kinds of emotional baggage, grudges, and complicated feelings. And yet, the act of saying you’re sorry, or truly accepting someone else’s apology, can be incredibly freeing. That’s why we were psyched to read some words of apologizing wisdom from Marjorie Ingall in Tablet Magazine.
As the co-founder of the blog SorryWatch, Marjorie knows a thing or two about saying you’re sorry, and meaning it (and also when someone’s faking it). She recently shared her thoughts on the subject with Tablet. Check out an excerpt below, and read the whole piece on Tablet’s site.
“For two years, purely for my own amusement and education, I’ve co-written a blog called SorryWatch. The site, which I do with my friend and fellow writer Susan McCarthy, applauds good apologies (and analyzes what makes them good) and flings metaphorical monkey poop at bad ones (and examines what makes them terrible). We examine apologies in politics, sports, pop culture, literature, and history, and we look at research on effective and ineffective apologies. Now, as Yom Kippur looms, it seems an opportune time to discuss what I’ve learned about how to say you’re sorry and do it right.
Because, sadly, there are so many epically bad apologies out in the world. Probably the worst we’ve analyzed were by sports figures: Lance Armstrong and Ray Rice(written back in May, before the who-saw-the-inside-the-elevator-tape-and-when scandals erupted). Runner-up: Chris Christie’s eyeball-popping, ultra-defensive post-G.W.-Bridge-closure press conference.
We’ve seen Jews on both the giving and receiving ends of bad apologies. We’ve looked at Henry Ford’s wretched apology to the Jewish community for his anti-Semitic newspaper, Gary Oldman’s wretched apology to the ADL for his anti-Semitic remarks, a German spa’s wretched apology to everyone for its romantic Kristallnacht specialon the event’s 75th anniversary, Rupert Murdoch’s wretched apology to no one in particular for inane tweeting about the “Jewish-owned press,” and a young Jewish op-ed writer’s wretched apology to the universe for suggesting that genocide of Palestinians is permissible.
On the more positive side, Susan and I have looked at Emory University’s excellent apology for its history of anti-Jewish prejudice at its dental school, Charles Dickens’ remorse for his hateful anti-Semitic caricature of Fagin, our sister site Kveller’s thoughtful apology for running a biased and homophobic essay, and Pharaoh’s pretty decent apology to Moses. (Pharaoh was a jerk, but if you restrict yourself to the text, the man gave good sorry.)
My personal interest in apology dates, of course, from having children. I started writing aboutteaching kids to say they’re sorry when I was the East Village Mamele at the Forward. I was a new mom, acutely aware of the moral import of bringing up new humans. I was terrified of raising tiny Ed Geins. So, I did a lot of reading of contradictory parenting articles. It was interesting to learn that some experts don’t believe in forced apologies; I discovered that I do. Maybe because Judaism is a religion that’s all about how you act, not what you think. I don’t care if you’re not sorry in your heart; you still have to say it to your sister if you smacked her on the head with a My Little Pony. You can track my own struggles with and questions about children’s apologies as my kids got older through my Tablet columns.