“Sometimes, on rare occasions, apologizing is the worst thing you can do. It allows a person who is in the wrong to feel superior. It feeds their narcissism.”
This doesn’t really tally with what I believe—that saying you’re sorry, asking for forgiveness, and making peace are literally requirements for mature and moral folks; that even if you’re not really in the wrong it’s best to swallow your pride and make peace—but something resonated here at a deep level.
If I could step outside myself for a moment and be objective, trying to make sure that my willingness to agree with this statement is not about a half-hidden urge to “get back” at someone, I have to be wed to the truth, even if it hurts.
The person making this statement was wise, someone I trusted, a long-time mentor. Thought she was talking about international politics, I thought it might have personal relevance.
Then, a few weeks later, the head of a project I’m working on said virtually the same thing. He had to let someone go, reluctantly. The person threatened to leave unless a series of (unreasonable) demands were met, but the project head agreed to them, wanting to make peace and not damage the relationship. Then the person added another demand, and the project head said he couldn’t accede to it because it would affect the success of the project as well as other participants. So, the person quit.
Afterwards the project head was torn—he didn’t want to burn bridges, he didn’t want to hurt this person either. He wanted to make peace. Should he call him and apologize?
Plus, he wasn’t particularly invested in this emotional battle. He just wanted the project to succeed.
He went back and forth. Then, he called me to tell me his decision. He decided not to apologize. He said he remembered someone once telling him that to apologize to someone who was controlling was not a good idea. He said sometimes rigidity and control are about fear, but sometimes it’s about fear mixed with warfare, shooting the other person down and proving that you “win”.
“If I do this,” he told me, “he won’t see this as a gesture of kind conciliation, but instead, as an admission of defeat and a sign of submission to his will. If he were someone else, I’d do it, easily and gladly, but on reflection I realized my apologizing will only lead to more abuses in the future.”
Don’t apologize to bullies.