Here is the hierarchy of apologies, their function and their motivation, 1-10, from most admirable to despicable:
1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.
2. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s legitimate and defensible action or words caused unanticipated, excessive, or unnecessary harm to a particular party or parties. The apology expresses a sincere regret that the harm occurred.
3. An apology motivated by a desire to accept accountability for an event or occurrence that one may not have caused, but was responsible for in some way.
4. A spontaneous apology intended to demonstrate compassion and sympathy for the victim or victims of the unavoidable consequences of a necessary action.
5. A spontaneous apology designed to prevent future, preventable harm by expressing regret that a past action was necessary or that it occurred at all.
6. A forced or compelled version of 1-4, when the individual (or organization) apologizing knows that an apology is appropriate but would have avoided making one if he or she could have gotten away with it.
7. A forced or compelled version of 1-4, in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent .
8. A forced apology for a rightful or legitimate act, in capitulation to bullying, fear, threats, desperation or other coercion.
9. Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”). Another variation: apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.
10. An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.