Apologies

Perhaps you heard? Chicago had a bit of a meteorological setback this week. It kinda, um, crippled the heck out of the city for about 48 blissfully lazy hours (at least for me, for those stuck working and traveling, you had my sympathies).

Yesterday in the Chicago Tribune, there was an article about who was to blame for a particularly desperate situation on northbound Lake Shore Drive (the “LSD” of Jim Croce song fame and subject of the photo above). The city decided to close LSD at the height of the blizzard, while there were still cars and buses trying to get off of it effectively letting them become enveloped by a massive, heavy snowstorm and glazed by wind-whipped waves coming off the nearby lake. The city then worked slowly to extract them, to the point that people were stranded from 4pm until 2am in some cases, in both cars and buses. The comraderie on the road has been a main element of most of the stories, a certain “go with it” thing happened. They knew they were stuck and making a break for it wasn’t an option in 50 mph winds with driving snow in 17 degrees. Miserable yes, but in it together and helping each other out.

Still, the article was asking which direction to point the collective finger. Someone was at fault and let’s find out who as we go for our torches and pitchforks, shall we? A formal apology hasn’t come down from the mayor or the head of city maintenance, which has a lot of people pretty irritated. Plows are running out of places to dump the snow and are actually going so far as to truck it to the southwest side where it’s dumped and then melted to make room for more. Sidewalks while clear, continue to sport crosswalks like mountains to be hurdled. Nonetheless, people who had warning the storm was coming two days before it came, chose to put themselves in harm’s way and then demand an apology from those who didn’t rescue them fast enough from it. Welcome to Chicago. Or rather, humanity. Entitled, irresponsible, embittered humanity.

So what good would an apology do? What IS an apology, anyway? I’ve been thinking about apologies a lot, having been on the receiving end of one or two recently. An apology is, contrary to popular belief, not really about the words. Contrite, tear-filled, written, spoken, unspoken…all the ways to deliver the “I’m sorry” matter, it’s true. Delivery counts. However, it’s what happens after. One of the better sermons I’ve heard was about repentance. What it means to be truly repentant, also known as sorry, and how few people mean it when they say it.

re·pent

1 repent pronunciation /rɪˈpɛnt/

–verb (used without object) 

1.  

to feel sorry, self-reproachful, or contrite for past conduct; regret or be conscience-stricken about a past action, attitude, etc. (often followed by of ): He repented after his thoughtless act.
2.  

to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.
–verb (used with object) 

3. 

to remember or regard with self-reproach or contrition: to repent one’s injustice to another.
4.  

to feel sorry for; regret: to repent an imprudent act.

 

Number 2. Number 2 is the key. To apologize and to change. To never (or try to) never do whatever it was, again. To have total cognition that whatever was done or said, was wrong and to strike it from any future possibilities. THAT is an apology. To attempt to recapture trust with the understanding that it’s not a bottomless resource to be exploited without consequence.

If you can’t make a change, don’t make the apology. And don’t expect one. Apologies are not about what is said at the time, they are about what is done after the time.

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