Never Accept an Incomplete or Inauthentic Apology

3 elements of a true apology and my extended response to one I find lacking

Sandra Pawula
9 min readNov 9, 2021


Not all are apologies are created equal. Some are offered reluctantly, some are partial admissions, and some turn the blame back on you.

An apologizer can easily fool you. So, be discerning when you decide whether or not to accept an apology. Take whatever time you need to think it through. Trust your gut.

I recently received an apology that I intuitively found lacking. It prompted me to explore what constitutes a true apology. This is what I discovered.

In her Psychology Today article, The Power of Apology, author Beverly Engel states a meaningful apology should include these three elements:

  • Regret
  • Responsibility
  • Remedy

All these elements are indeed important in an apology.

But an apology can contain all three and still not be satisfactory if it is insincere or incomplete. A person must take full responsibility for an apology to be meaningful. If the words used in an apology are vague or ambiguous, it doesn’t necessarily express true regret.

Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. goes further. She offers nine guidelines for a “true” apology. If you’re considering whether to accept an apology, I recommend reading her article.

It can be tempting to accept an apology simply to get back on better grounds. But remember, if you accept an insincere or incomplete apology, the unacceptable behavior may continue to occur.

On October 15, 2021, out of the blue, I received an email pointing me to a full “renewed apology” on the Rigpa International website.

In short, the apology acknowledges that “people were hurt” in their relationship with the Buddhist spiritual teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche. It also states the organization failed to respond appropriately to their needs.

To the untrained reader, the apology may sound good.

But the apology is vague. It uses the phrase “people who were hurt in their relationship with Sogyal Rinpoche” instead of words that accurately describe his harmful behavior.



Sandra Pawula

Essays to calm your mind, ease your heart and connect with your inner wisdom. Writer | mindfulness expert | trauma survivor.