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When reporters from CNN were, according to some circles, insufficiently condemning of the two young men convicted of rape in Steubenville, Ohio, not one but two petitions demanding an apology appeared on Change.org.
Leaving aside the question of why the average CNN viewer – and not, say, the actual rape victim – warrants an apology from the network, this drama got me thinking about apologies in general…and why you shouldn’t demand them even if you truly deserve them.
First of all, the true bad actors among us really aren’t sorry. They can’t be; if they were, they wouldn’t be bad actors. The bad actor will capitulate to a public apology in order to look good and/or to get you to shut up. Do not be surprised when the bad actor makes the same error again. And again.
Secondly, people with good hearts who make errors out of ignorance become defensive when others make angry demands. If I said something which was inadvertently offensive, a gently worded statement as to how my words were offensive would, most likely, bring out an apology from me. A shrill demand would not. That is human nature at work – no one likes the sound of “gimme!”
When someone does wrong to us, it is natural to get angry. It is natural to want life to be made right again, preferably by the person who did wrong to you in the first place.
We should not let our anger turn us into whiners, however. We should present a face of calm and let the offender apologize in his or her own time – sincerely. If that sincere apology does not come, we should rise above it and move on. Insist on reparations if justified – but apology is a moral, not legal, matter. As such, let’s take the high ground and not become
Photo credit: IMJ Studios (stock.xchng)
(I’ll bet you get it now.)