The Postmodern Apology

There’s this thing that I call a “postmodern apology” that’s pervading our conversational language. I first noticed it as something we tell ourselves; increasingly (or maybe I’m just going crazy — it’s not like I have quantitative proof this is happening in our culture), the “postmodern apology” is something we’re using with others.

Here’s an example of me doing it to myself yesterday. I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I ate so much. I do this all the time. Uggghhh, this is unhealthy…”

Now, notice: it’s not that I ate a lot, I felt bad, and so I thought those thoughts. No! Rather, I thought those thoughts *in order to* allow myself to eat that much as a defense mechanism. I want to tell myself that I am not the type of person who over-eats — while at the same time also over-eating. So, if I acknowledge to myself how bad the thing is that I did, I get to, with less cognitive dissonance, do the bad thing — when, if I really wanted not to do the bad thing, I could have not done the bad thing, I could have not overeaten in the first place.

Again, not: I over-ate, realized how unhealthy it was, and so thought about how unhealthy it was. Rather: I wanted to eat unhealthy, realized on some level that I shouldn’t, so told myself that it was bad so I could tell myself I was “aware” of it, so I could allow myself to eat unhealthy.

Self-deception in order to protect one’s ego is one thing. I think it gets worse when we use this “postmodern apology” in conversation with others.

“Here are some homophobic jokes. [xyz, etc., etc.] Oops, sorry, I am so shocking. I just say what’s on my mind, no filter! That was homophobic.”

“I am being mean to you, friend. I am sorry about that.”


With the homophobic joke example… it’s not: I said a homophobic joke, realized it was homophobic, and then apologized. Rather, it’s: I wanted to say a homophobic joke, but I don’t want you to see me as someone who is homophobic or who says homophobic jokes, and so I am apologizing *in order to allow myself* to make the jokes.

Note: I could have not made the jokes in the first place.

When told to ourselves, these “postmodern apologies” allow us to do the bad things without facing to ourselves the consequences of those bad things. Worse, when “postmodern apologies” are used with others, they allow us to hurt one another while obfuscating the fact that our actions comprise the stuff of who we are, which allows us to hurt others more.

We gotta own up to the stuff that we are. Own our actions, and own ourselves. It’s only when we confront the difference between who we are and who we want to be, and start making decisions about ourselves deep down, and committing to those decisions — no apologies — that allows us to truly change and become better people.

You know what I mean?

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