10/24/2016 05:18 EDT | Updated 10/24/2016 05:18 EDT

A Semantic Anatomy Of Two Apologies

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump rallies with supporters in St. Augustine, Florida, U.S. October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The purpose of an apology is to beg a person's or persons' forgiveness for an injury or insult inflicted upon him or them by the apologist. The value of the apology depends on the words used to frame the apology and the context it refers to.

The words used to formulate an apology must carry sincerity and remorse reflecting the depth of the injury. If words fail to carry these feelings it is not an apology. It is only a grammatically organised string of words; not worth the piece of paper it is written on and not worth the efforts spent on verbalizing it. It is insincere. It is self-serving and lifeless. It fails to achieve the intended objectives -- to be forgiven and to be given the opportunity to mend broken bridges.

When an apology uses conditional connectors such as, "If" or "But" and makes a reference a person not connected to the context of the apology, the apology is not an apology. Example? "I apologize if anyone was offended..." This type of an apology indicates absence of remorse. It sounds like, "It is a minor issue, but if you feel offended I am ready to apologize (to get you off my back)."

When an apology refers to an unrelated incident and involves a third party, the apology is not an apology. Think of some of Donald Trump's statements: "...Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course -- not even close,"

This type of an apology injects a diversion by invoking a third party incident to shift the shock element embedded in the behaviour of the individual apologizing. It compares the scope of his behaviour against the behaviour of what someone else had done in the past.

What Trump is trying to say here is, "Please don't waste your time on me. Focus on Clinton. Compared to Clinton's indiscretion mine is miniscule. Mine is not worth wasting your time on.

When an apology devalues the incident as being too old to talk about, the apology is not an apology because it "...took place many years ago."

I do not believe there is any statute of limitations against reminding someone of his indiscretion. Sometimes memories leave invisible yet lasting wounds. My life experience tells me the more an apologist evades the truth the further he drifts from his well-wishers and his ultimate redemption.

When an apologizer makes a reference to his status and hides behind it the apology is not an apology. Again, we come back to Trump: "...grab them by the pussy" and kiss and grope them ....when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything." Mr. Trump has a sensed of entitlement. As a star of the community he feels entitled to go around kissing beautiful women, and feels they should be honoured to be kissed by him.

When an apology shifts responsibility from the offender to the victim the apology is not an apology: "I am automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss, I don't even wait ..." Translation? Trump's saying it's not his fault that he kisses them. It is beyond his control. It just happens.

When an apology blames the reporter for reporting the incident the apology is not an apology: "...It was a private conversation." His meaning? The person who leaked the tape did not have Trump's permission to disclose the incident. That person is at fault not Trump.

Did Trump ever instruct those at Access Hollywood not to record the conversation at any point? Apparently not -- he was too busy bragging about his adventures.

When an apology makes an unwanted reference to the behaviour of the members of a specific community, such as gym-goers with their "locker-room banter." He attempts to minimize the impact of behaviour by making it a general practice of some third party individuals (regardless of whether its even true.)

[Note: Mr. Trump's quotes used in this essay are from the Washington Post, October 8, 2016.]

Having dissected the Trump "apology", here is an example of an apology recently offered on October 5 by RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson to hundreds of current and former female victims subjected to alleged incidents of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment by certain RCMP officers.

How does it compare with Trump's apology?

The commissioner started with: "We failed you. We hurt you' and continued to say, " the representative plaintiffs here today: Janet Merlo, who has so courageously taken the lead to represent so many women who have been adversely affected, and to Linda Davidson and all the women you represent; indeed to all the women who have been impacted by the force's failure to have protected your experience at work, and on behalf of every leader, supervisor or manager, every commissioner: I stand humbly before you and solemnly offer our sincere apology."

[Source--The Toronto Star; October 6, 2016.]

Commissioner Paulson's apology sounds genuine, meaningful, sincere and heartfelt. I can confidently say that it will have a healing effect on the victims who were left to suffer unattended for decades.

The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to apologize is the bravest.

[Source: Unknown]

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