Monday, June 5, 2017

Why I’ll Never Accept Your Apology

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past. - Tryon Edwards

The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology. - Red Auerbach

Mainstream and social media (is there even a difference anymore?), ever-hungry for blood, battery, humiliation and sensationalism, continue to carry news about Kathy Griffin’s act of stupidity in posing with a replica of the severed head of the POTUS.

Much has been made of her apology-turned-attack, where she has tried to turn an ignorant act into an act of self-defense, claiming she is the victim from the backlash when the original act itself has no excuse.  Unfortunately, failure to recognize cause-and-effect has doomed many a career.

Many people have asked my opinion on the matter because of what they believe to be my curious stand on apologies.

I never accept apologies.

Over-sensitive people are often quick to criticize me for this but here is how I look at apologies.

Rule 1 – The Good Person

If you are a good person and you have done wrong by me with an honest mistake, then you have demonstrated your imperfection as a human being.  As an imperfect human being myself, I also make mistakes so who am I to judge you for making one with me.  For this reason, apologies are not necessary in such situations.  Many relationships have been saved because of this approach.

Rule 2 – The Bad Person

If you are a bad person who got caught committing a heinous act and you are apologizing merely because you got caught, then likely the apology carries little if any weight (and likely doesn’t prevent similar incidents from happening again).  If the apology carries little if any weight, then it is also unnecessary since it’s either a time-waster, an insult or a set-up to commit similar acts in the future.  Much abuse has been avoided because of this approach.

Rule 3 – The Rare “Come-To-Jesus” Person

Very rarely, the bad person committing a heinous act has an epiphany, realizes where they have gone wrong and makes an authentic commitment to doing better.  While people claim we should always accept any apology from anyone for any level of miscreant behavior on the off-chance that they will turn the corner, those same people haven’t studied history or human behavior to see the likelihood of such things occurring. While there are some success stories, a lot of people get used and abused repeatedly for this belief.

Rule 4 – Past Behavior Demonstrates Apology Authenticity

If you really want to know how authentic someone’s apology is, examine how they have been living their Life up to the moment the act requiring apology occurred.  Past performance often predicts future behavior and provides deep insight into the reason and motivation for an apology.  It will help you identify a good person, a person having an epiphany or someone who interprets you as an idiot to be played.

Too Harsh?

Many people who do not know me think that this is too cut-and-dried, too objective, too cold and the like.  Later, I have to listen to them complain how someone keeps hurting them over and over.

The reality is that I don’t judge people because I accept that good people make honest mistakes and that bad people who make poor choices will eventually have to account to “Someone” for their deeds.  I don’t have the time, the interest, the moral authority or the level of perfection required to judge them and so if I don’t judge them, there is nothing that requires an apology from them either.

The Bottom Line – Our Actions Reveal Our Authenticity

While intentions are wonderful and words are easily produced for any situation, the reality is that our actions reveal the dialogue taking place in our brain and often speak so loudly that others can’t hear what we are saying.

When I see someone like Griffin with her latest stunt, or her previous stunt where she pretended to give Anderson Cooper oral sex on live TV during the 2013 New Year’s Eve Countdown, or when someone makes a derogatory comment about women, people of faith, gender choice, people of other nationalities, etc. and then quickly apologizes, they are usually thinking about their career and the ramifications of being caught.  Rarely do they believe that the act itself was wrong.  For them, the only thing that was wrong was being exposed.

There is a deeper issue when people commit heinous acts that require an apology. The fact is that they wouldn’t have committed the act if it weren’t already a seed in their mind.

Do you know why I could never insult an LGBTQ person, a person from another nationality, a person of a different faith, an indigenous person, a woman, a minority or pose in a photo pretending to hold the severed head of the POTUS?

It’s because such things don’t exist in my mind and if they are not in my mind, you won’t see them in my words or my actions either.  If heinous thoughts are not in one’s mind, then one is less likely to experience the overused “lapse of judgment”, which in reality is less a lapse and more an x-ray into someone’s mind.

For those who keep surprising, disappointing and offending us and then promptly asking for (or demanding) forgiveness, they have revealed what is in their mind and having done so, it is up to us to decide how to interact with them and respond to them. In those situations, only we are to blame if we continue to be surprised, disappointed or angered by their actions.

As for the good people in our lives, they have made a mistake.

Perhaps it is one of many.

But are we so perfect that we haven’t any mistakes either?

Our actions, past and future, matter much more than trite, perfunctory apologies or fake ones meant to relieve us of the responsibility of acting like a proper human being.

Remember that the next time someone begs for forgiveness from you.

Or you beg for it from someone else.

In service and servanthood, create a great day for yourself and others because merely having one is too passive an experience.


Addendum - Who is the Injured Party?

Within minutes of this post coming out, someone wrote me and condemned me, saying that by refusing an apology, I was denying someone the right to feel better about a situation.  When I replied that I thought the purpose of the apology was more to heal the injured and not just to remove the guilt, they never replied.  I guess they wanted an apology from me and were disappointed to not receive one.

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  1. My mother used to repeat the words: Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny." Not sure who said it (the internet is widely unsure as well) but it does not matter. What matters is watching our thoughts. When we begin there, everything else follows. If the thought is "I need to shock people to stay in the news" then the actions follow. I tend to think the real thought is fear based and has more to do with not liking themselves and wanting everyone else to come along for the ride.

    The same with the apology. If your action was intended (whether you were late for a meeting or call or something more) you need to stop first and take accountability for why you are apologizing. Too many are too quick to say "I'm sorry" without really knowing why they are, if they should be, accepting responsibility, or changing their thoughts.

    Another wonderful sharing of insights Harry.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Kathleen. The wisdom you share is VERY true.

      Now ... considering how important it is, why don't we live more this way?

      Is it possible that our fear-based / ego-based way of living is crowding everything else out?

      Create a great day, Kathleen!

  2. I started to write about the difference between an apology and a true change of heart, sometimes called repentance. I thought about the difference between forgiveness and accepting an apology. They are different. I thought about apology-acceptance and repentance-forgiveness as transactions and what it means to forgive when there is no repentance. Certainly we can't accept an apology which has not been offered. Anyway, I started to writing about these things and decided that it would be about enough material to fill an hour lecture. Never mind. Thanks for the food for thought!