apologies

If I have offended anyone this year…I am sorry.

 “If?”

 No. That’s not an apology.

 I am sorry, but you need to understand…

 “But?”

 No. That’s not an apology either.

 The pillars of power are shaking. The foundation of intimidation, fear, and shame are crumbling. The Great and Powerful Wizard (or small white man) behind the curtain has been exposed, and what do you know, he’s not so scary after all.

 The fact that certain individuals in politics, media, sports (or any organization of power) are being exposed isn’t in itself that shocking. I realize that is a sad statement to write. But I don’t think any of us are sitting here dumbfounded by the details of the abuse of power gone wild. It’s only been going on…you know…let me see…forever.

 Yes, the peculiarities of many of these cases are disturbing, and honestly…weird. Potted plants…really? But that is not what this post it about.

 The thing that has surprised me most in all these cases is the thing that should be the most basic to our humanity, (and frankly, the entire purpose of a public relations team that represents these powerful individuals), and yet, it seems to be the one thing no one can get right. And that thing is…

 The apology.

 Disclaimer. This post is not meant to be my opportunity to rain down judgement on everyone being exposed for their indiscretions. I am not perfect. Far from it. But I have seen a major flaw in our society when it comes to apologizing for our mistakes. 

 Our society, as a whole, has forgotten how to say “I am sorry.”

 Period. I am sorry.

 Apologies don’t include “if’s” and “but’s.”

 (Now maybe I’m crazy, but that could be the title of a kick-ass country song. Quick, send this to Blake Shelton.)

 In fact, there are really only two steps to a proper apology. Here they are:

 1) I’m sorry. (Ownership)

 2) What can I do make up for my actions? (Reconciliation)

 That’s it. That is a proper apology. There is no justification. No “if’s” and but’s.” Simple. Straightforward. Accountable. (“…and did I mention I’m gay?” Come on Spacey…really?)

 So why in the world has a proper apology become so difficult in our society?

 Well, the easiest answer goes right back to the “illusion” of power that is currently being exposed. Many in power operate from the standpoint that their authority is based on them being smarter, more talented, and having all the answers. This is an image we have done a wonderful job reinforcing in politics, sports, and business. It’s the flawed model of “Hero Worship” our society is yet to outgrow.

 For those who find themselves promoted to power the pressure becomes convincing everyone else that they are worthy of the position. It is here when the ego takes over and does everything it can to build a defense against any opposition to our credibility. In order to maintain our worth we need to hide our insecurities and doubts. Anytime someone questions our viewpoint they are threatening the validity of our power. As a result, vulnerability and fallibility become our greatest fear and weakness.

 If we learned one thing from the “Steroid Era” of baseball is that the players who accepted fault from the onset, and then made their apologies, ended up being the players forgiven and welcomed back. (see Andy Pettitte)

 On the other hand, players who denied steroid use (Clemens, Bonds), or didn’t want to address the issue (McGwire), continue to struggle in redeeming their image and accolades.

 In essence, the story is no longer a story once you take accountability for your actions. Your reputation and credibility will be damaged, but if you are honestly interested in reconciling your actions you will be give the opportunity at redemption.

 But the ego hates being exposed. And if you are someone who has a career of being “right,” or being the “best,” and having all the “answers,” the ego would rather go down in flames than admit wrong-doing. And as basic and elementary an it is to say “I am sorry,” it is not so easy when you are someone who has never had to apologize in your life. It is not that they don’t know “how” to say those words, it’s just that it is a skill they’ve never been forced to develop, so why would we expect them to know how to do so in the most vulnerable moment in their life?

 From the time I started this blog a few days ago, to now, numerous more individuals are being exposed for their sexual misconduct.  Listening to some of their apologies (or silence) is brutal. As a public service to any of these individuals who genuinely want to make amends for their mistakes, and move forward in an honest and healing way…I offer this apology template:

 “The first thing I need to say is “I am sorry.” Regardless of the details that are coming to the surface, the fact of the matter is that I have made some egregious mistakes. There is nothing to say to justify my actions, and my goal now is to confront these mistakes and make amends. Regardless of when these actions happened, my age at the time, and whether it was a “different time back then,” I know the difference between right and wrong. And what I did was wrong. I am truly sorry to the victims and I will do everything I can to right my wrongs. And to my family, friends, and fans, I offer you my sincere apologies and hope to one day earn back your respect.”

 Or…something like that. You know…honesty…vulnerability…fallibility. The things that make us human in the first place.

 Apologies don’t come with guarantees of how things are going to work out. A sincere apology comes with deep humility, because the act itself can be humiliating. And it is that point where the shift begins and the healing can happen. It is not humiliation for everyone else’s satisfaction, but rather the self humiliation that cracks open the ego and allows grace and compassion to pour in.

 A few years back a friend of mine had to expel a student from school. He was nervous and apologetic when he called the father to let him know, but the father quickly cut him off and told him, “You know, there are two kinds of people in the world…those who are humble, and those who are about to be humbled.” He knew that what his son had done was wrong, and this was his son’s opportunity to grow and learn.

 I too have found myself humbled and humiliated from choices and actions I have made in the past. And even as I write this I continue to develop the courage it takes to say “I am sorry.”

 That’s it. Simple but not easy.

 “I am sorry.” And there are no “if’s” “and’s” or “but’s” about it!

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