Is an apology a sign of weakness?

After posting ‘Genuine apology or ‘Chulbul Pandey’ apology?’, I remembered an incident that had taken place during my final year in school.

One day, one of my classmates whistled loudly when our Mathematics teacher was writing on the blackboard. The teacher immediately turned around and asked who had whistled. When nobody owned up, he asked me, his favourite student, to identify the culprit. I knew who had whistled. I thought it was my duty to tell my teacher the truth. But, I knew if I did that, I would be considered a ‘squealer’. On the spur of the moment, I decided I didn’t want to be considered a ‘squealer’. I rationalized to myself that it was not a serious matter anyway. So I replied that I did not know who had whistled. The teacher angrily exclaimed, “I didn’t expect you to be a snake in the grass!” and continued his class.

He seemed to be his normal self during the next day’s Mathematics class. After the class, he called me outside and told me, “Yesterday, I spoke very harshly to you because I was upset. Later, I realised that you were in a delicate situation. If you had identified the culprit, your classmates would have felt betrayed. It was not correct on my part to speak harshly to you. I am sorry. I felt I should apologise to you in the class, but I thought over the matter and decided there’s no point in raking up the matter again. However, if you so desire, I will apologise in the class tomorrow.” I assured him that everybody, including me, had taken his comment very lightly, and, as he had pointed out, there was no point in raking up the matter again.

Till that day, I respected this teacher immensely. After this incident, my respect for him increased sharply!

I remember this incident whenever I see politicians, businessmen and other persons in public life make asses of themselves trying to defend indefensible acts of omission or commission committed by themselves or some member of their organisation, when it would be much simpler to accept facts and express regret.

I don’t think people lower themselves in any way by apologising for genuine mistakes. Why, then, do people find it so difficult to admit their mistakes and apologise for these mistakes?

In this regard, BJP leader L. K. Advani deserves praise for his written apology to Sonia Gandhi in February 2011 for having made unsubstantiated allegations that her family had black money in foreign bank accounts.

Do you think L. K. Advani’s apology was a sign of weakness? Or do you think it was a sign of strength of character?

What about other unsolicited apologies? Are they signs of weakness or are they signs of strength of character?

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10 thoughts on “Is an apology a sign of weakness?

  1. It was indeed gracious of LKA. But the present lot across the board have been trading charges left, right and centre without sound and fury when they ought to have presented to the electorate substantive line of action in their manifesto. Any way, we seem to be in for another horse traded ‘khichdi’!

  2. Completely agree with Vidya’s comment when she says that in most cases people let their bloated ego get in the way of actually apologizing to people even if they feel that they did a mistake.

    Lovely post.

  3. No one becomes smaller or weaker by apologizing & accepting that a mistake has been made. Unfortunately human nature is such that it looks like you are a weak person if you apologize (EGO).

  4. Ego makes it tough for people to accept their mistake and apologize. I believe no one but we ourselves are the best ones to judge our own deeds and before anyone else it is us who get to know of our mistake. But false ego many a times, keeps one from apologizing. Your teacher is a respectable one.

  5. On apologizing you are strengthening the fact that you value the relationship than your ego and it will make the relationship stronger. It indicates you have good morals and maturity.People who do apologize accept that they are human and not perfect and it shows their strength only.

  6. I also feel that apologizing for your mistake reduces your weight of guilt so much. If you know you committed a mistake, and do not go ahead and apologize, the other person will get over it after a certain time, but ‘you’ never would. It would stay with you, perhaps forever. I have apologized to a friend for a mistake of mine committed when I was very small, in school. A mistake that happened unknowlingly on my part, but a mistake nonetheless. As expected, she didn’t remember it, but it had stayed with me for all that long. I felt very light after talking to her about it.

  7. Like I’m telling my kids everyday, making an apology is the bravest thing one can do. Your teacher is brave indeed – to apologise when it wasn’t even necessary, a teacher to a student – only for his own peace of mind, is creditable.

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