One of the commonly used expressions that makes me cringe is “mistakes were made.” The expression is commonly used as a way of acknowledging that some situation was handled badly, while avoiding any direct responsibility or admission of fault. And the word “mistake” itself conveys a lack of intent.
There are plenty of variants of the non-apology. What prompts me to write this morning is an item that came across my newsfeed about a model who posted a photo of a nude overweight woman in a gym on Snapchat, with the caption “If I can’t unsee this, you can’t either.” She later posted a (non)apology video saying “that was not what I meant to do” and “that is not the type of person I am.” (At least she didn’t use the passive voice.) Maybe it is the case that this young woman is truly is inept at Snapchat, despite what seems to be her active social media presence.
But most often what people mean when they explain “this is not what I meant” was “I didn’t mean to get caught” or “I didn’t mean for people to be upset at me for this thing I did.”
Whatever form they take – “I didn’t mean…”, “mistakes were made”, “that’s not the kind of person I am” – these responses distance us from taking responsibility for our actions and words. The problem is that if we don’t take ownership of what we do, how will we grow? How will we transcend the nonloving, nongenerous, unskillful parts of ourselves?