There are two types of apologies that I have seen used throughout my life: The bad, fake apology and the good, awkward apology.
The first, which frequently uses the word “but,” is more commonplace and reflects the Greek apologia, which means to speak in defense of a belief or action.
This apology makes me cringe — not because we are invoking our Greek ancestors with its use, but because we are disguising stubborn self-righteousness as a genuine apology.
For example, “I’m sorry for taking that tone, but you really needed to hear that,” tries to excuse a condescending tone that most likely hurt your friend’s feelings, even if they “really did need to hear that.”
“I’m sorry that I missed getting lunch with you, but I’m really busy” forces your friend to either feel bad for you or bad about themselves for not being a priority in your life.
Or, “I’m sorry that people are so jealous of me, but I can’t help it that I am so popular…”
Okay, I took that from “Mean Girls,” but I think you get the point: The word “but” distorts the positive impact of an apology.
I admire the second definition of apology, one that is rare in comparison to its counterpart and reflects the accepted contemporary meaning of the word itself: An admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.
This type of apology is genuine in that it requires one to recognize mistakes, reflect on how those mistakes can be mediated and ultimately express remorse for those mistakes to a victim.