Apologies Have A Time And Place: When You Should Say Sorry, And When They Should Pound Sand

Written by Michael Cummings on April 30, 2018

In a previous column where I wrote about family of origin, one of the rules in our house is, “We sincerely say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and we strive to know when to say it.”

I’ve noticed an increasing absence of this phrase between spouses, among siblings and other family members, with drivers on the road, and in the general public. I don’t know whether this has occurred throughout history, maybe it has, but I tend to think the uptick in “nones” — i.e. no religion – has a play here. Strictly on a secular point, saying sorry for something bad you did, or a good you didn’t do, is required for civil society. Proof of this can be found when someone cuts you off in traffic; a “sorry wave” can deflate the most bloodthirsty tempers. In the medical field, apologies might even help reduce lawsuits.

But what about apologizing when we shouldn’t?

Jay Feely, former NFL kicker and current dad, posted a picture of his daughter, her boyfriend, and him on Twitter. In the picture, captioned “Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a great time at prom. #BadBoys” he was holding a pistol and pointing it safely toward the ground. I could write tomes longer than Shakespeare of the vitriol he received. One of the oldest dad jokes in history, and in 2018 we evidently “can’t even”.

Feely’s apology:

The prom picture I posted was obviously intended to be a joke. My Daughter has dated her boyfriend for over a year and they knew I was joking. I take gun safety seriously (the gun was not loaded and had no clip in) and I did not intend to be insensitive to that important issue.

Next up, Shania Twain.

Twain committed the crime of saying that in the last election she would have voted for Donald Trump if she could have (hypothetical since she’s Canadian). Another poopstorm ensued, so the country singer posts a four-part apology on Twitter:

I would like to apologise to anybody I have offended in a recent interview with the Guardian relating to the American President. The question caught me off guard. As a Canadian, I regret answering this unexpected question without giving my response more context (1/4)

I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it’s clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President (2/4)

I was trying to explain, in response to a question about the election, that my limited understanding was that the President talked to a portion of America like an accessible person they could relate to, as he was NOT a politician (3/4)

My answer was awkward, but certainly should not be taken as representative of my values nor does it mean I endorse him. I make music to bring people together. My path will always be one of inclusivity, as my history shows. (4/4)

The great Tony Robbins, loved by millions, is not immune. During one of his seminars, he said some women are using the #MeToo movement to gain significance through victimhood. A fair criticism, since stories like people having consensual but later deemed regrettable sex on a first date compromise legitimate rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment cases.

His hostage statement:

At a recent Unleash the Power Within (UPW) event in San Jose, my comments failed to reflect the respect I have for everything Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement has achieved. I apologize for suggesting anything other than my profound admiration for the #MeToo movement. Let me clearly say, I agree with the goals of the #MeToo movement and its founding message of “empowerment through empathy,” which makes it a beautiful force for good.

But sometimes, the teacher has to become the student and it is clear that I still have much to learn.

I teach that “life happens for you, not to you” and what I’ve realized is that while I’ve dedicated my life to working with victims of abuse all over the world, I need to get connected to the brave women of #MeToo.

I am committed to being part of the solution.

I am committed to helping to educate others so that we all stay true to the ideals of the #MeToo movement. I will never stop examining my own words and actions to make sure I am staying true to those ideals. That begins with this brief statement but will not end until our goals are reached.

Latest reports indicate Robbins was released shortly after the apology. While cold and tired, he was otherwise unharmed, and is recovering at home.

I get it. As a celebrity, your income comes largely from the masses – or at least they hold significant influence in whether or the degree to which you make money. If the general consensus is you’re a bad person, you won’t last long. But what if there isn’t a general consensus, and the wailing you hear originates from only a few? What if you conclude you didn’t do or say anything wrong aside from disagreeing with a few outliers, and you stood up for yourself instead?

Apologize if you should, push back if you shouldn’t.

Image: Excerpted from: https://pixabay.com/en/sign-sorry-character-figure-1719892/

Michael Cummings
Michael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He has worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns.