Is It Always Right to Apologize?


Namashkar! We have grown up learning that a man of strength in character apologizes when he wrongs someone. He is not scared or ashamed to say sorry to make the victim feel better. On the contrary, recently I read an article in which American psychologists say that apologizing may not be a good idea always as we give away our power to the victim. It may lead to lowering of our self esteem. Which one holds more truth?

—Sangita, India


Dear Sangita,

Those “American psychologists” may have had particular circumstances in mind, but, in general, it IS the right thing to apologize (and make amends, where possible). Under most circumstances there will be no DISadvantage to do so and every moral and spiritual reason to “do the right thing.”

From a spiritual and karmic point of view, and a human one as well, apologizing (and making appropriate amends) is to help balance the karma of the harm one has done to another. Apologizing affirms self-honesty and transcendence of ego-affirming and ego-protective tendencies. The soul does not hesitate to apologize and make amends. Socially and humanly, an apology opens the heart: the one harmed has an incentive to forgive while the one apologizing feels remorse for the harm inflicted.

Are there any circumstances where it would be wise NOT to apologize and where to do so would be “giving away one’s power?” Well, I suppose it’s possible if a person (apologizing) tends to be self-abasing and the person being apologized to would likely respond to the apology by being abusive, angry or hurtful when the apology is being given. So, sure.

But it could also be true that if I had harmed someone, even someone who was, themselves, an abusive person, I might still feel to apologize to him and to do so with dignity and calmness. If I could remain centered even as I was lectured to and yelled at by the person to whom I apologized, it could still be “good for me” spiritually and the right thing, in any case, to do. After all, I am admitting I harmed him and am “taking my lumps” calmly. So, it really depends on specific circumstances and personalities. Do you see what I mean?

Sometimes the middle path is to wait a while until the person you have harmed has calmed down or recovered a bit before apologizing.


Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman