Tag Archives: apologies

Apologies and Forgiveness

Back in 1977 I made a phone call. It was to a college friend. He had gotten a job as a news anchor in Eau Claire, I think. I was doing some part-time work at a radio station in Oshkosh, and working weekdays in a factory. I had just gotten married, but hadn’t really launched my career yet.

My air shift went until midnight, so around 10:45, during a long record, I called the station where my friend worked, knowing he would be off the air by then.

When he answered the phone I said I’d called to let him know I’d gotten married and such. His response was a rather snippy, “why did you think I would care?”

I took the hint, said goodbye, and shortened my Christmas card list by one. I actually didn’t have a Christmas card list, but you get my point. It stung a bit, and I didn’t understand his reaction, but I reasoned that people move on, and that was that.

Fast forward thirty-seven and a half years, and in the mail I find a letter from this fellow. He apologized for the way in which he responded to me back in the day, and said some kind things about me, and how I had influenced his life.

To say I was surprised would be a major understatement. I was very pleased, however, that he had taken the opportunity to get it off his chest. It was a really courageous thing to do, and I respect him a lot for it. I told him that when I wrote back.

A few years ago I wrote about a woman who had called me on the Jewish “Day of Atonement” to apologize for something she had said or done. I had hardly recalled the incident, but thanked her very much for reaching out to say she was sorry. That call surprised me too, partly because I wasn’t aware she was Jewish.

I say “I’m sorry” a lot, but mostly for little things. There are a few people I’ve wronged in a significant way over the decades, I’m sure, and if I can dredge up those memories – buried in some sad place in my brain – I’d like to think I’d reach out to those people to apologize.

It is said that there are two kinds of sorry: one is unsolicited, and the other is being sorry for getting caught. That’s the one we see most in the news from politicians and other public figures.

Of course the best way to avoid making apologies is to not do anything wrong to anyone, but unfortunately most of us are humans, and by definition we aren’t perfect. It’s good to remember that when someone hurts us or does something thoughtless.

When bad things like that happen, we have the opportunity to forgive the offending party and move on with our lives. When those people take the time and courage to apologize, perhaps they can start the harder task of forgiving themselves.

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A Sorry State of Affairs

It seems that almost every day another public figure does or says something that warrants an apology. Sometimes they say they’re sorry, and sometimes they don’t. It seems to depend a lot on how upset they think their fans or constituents are, and how quickly they think it will blow over.

We’ve become accustomed to certain phrases being associated with these apologies. Some of them seem more sincere than others. Rarely, though, do we hear someone say, “I did (said) a very stupid thing. I have no excuses. I am completely responsible and can’t justify it. I’m really sorry, and I’d understand if you never trust me again, but I hope I can earn your trust by my actions as time goes on.”

Instead, we hear things like, “I misspoke,” or “it was in-artfully articulated,” or “I’m sorry for how you feel about what I did,” or “I didn’t do (say) what you think I did (said,) but my enemies want you to believe I did.”

It is understandable that people have reasons for what they’ve done. The big mistakes I’ve made have mostly been out of weakness or stupidity. Some people have substance abuse or mental or emotional issues to fault for their actions. For some it’s an attempt to be funny.

Mistakes made by a lot of public figures seem to happen often because they suffer from a sense that they are “special,” above the rules and the law, and way too smart to ever get caught at what they’re doing.

I’ve written about remorse before, and the key to saying you’re sorry is actually being sorry. And by that I don’t mean being sorry for getting caught, but being sorry for what you’ve done. That’s something we can’t really judge in others, since some people (like puppies) are really good at seeming sorry, but will get into the trash again at the first opportunity.

We tend not to hold people equally accountable for bad behavior. A lot depends on whether we like the person, or if what was said or done is a violation of political correctness.

I’m thankful that I’m not famous or powerful, since most of the stupid things I’ve said and done are not even remotely interesting to the media, or anyone else, for that matter. Part of being famous or powerful is that you are held to a higher standard, and it would be a great idea for those folks to keep that in mind before doing something for which they’ll need to apologize.

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