Apologies fake and real

Celebrity fake apologies:

  • “I apologize if anyone was offended.”
  • “I misspoke.”
  • “Mistakes were made.”

These are not apologies, just damage control. But let’s tighten the screws a little. Normal person fake apologies:

  • “I didn’t mean that.”
  • “I never meant to hurt you.”
  • “I’m sorry that bothered you.”
  • “I’m sorry, but I’ve been under a lot of pressure…”

These are damage control too. In all likelihood you did mean it, you just didn’t mean for them to hear it. You did want to hurt them, you just didn’t want to take responsibility for it. “I’m sorry that bothered you” puts the guilt on the other party, and your circumstances don’t make it OK to sin against other people.

A real apology is two things: 1) an admission of guilt and 2) a request for forgiveness. Scripture gives us lots of examples. Here’s one I read recently:

For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
(Psalm 25:11)

An admission of guilt (“my guilt is great”) and a request for forgiveness (“pardon my guilt”).

More information can be helpful as an explanation, but not as an excuse. Example: recently I blew off a friend for a phone call we’d scheduled. Twice in a week. Ouch. The second time he texted me to ask if we were still on, and I was out running errands. I tried to think how to express how badly I felt, then got distracted, and it was hours before I remembered to text him back. When I finally did, after apologizing I explained all this. I was totally at fault, and the circumstances didn’t change that. But it was good for him to know that I hadn’t been deliberately ignoring him all afternoon.

Fake apologies are easy, cheap and not ultimately helpful– they’re more to make ourselves feel better. Offering a sincere, heartfelt apology is the best way to move on from the offense. Even if you can’t do it right away because you have to think about what you really need to apologize for.

In the end, only Jesus frees us to offer a real apology. If we remember that we’ve sinned against God, it will be much easier to confess that we’ve sinned against other people as well. And if we remember that God has forgiven us, it will be much easier to ask others to do the same.

Now, who should you practice on?

Havel and Il: a (fairly obvious) lesson for leaders

The deaths of two heads of state were in the news yesterday. One was a champion of freedom, the other a tyrant.

A lesson for leaders, whether of nations or businesses or churches or households: You can seek to amass as much power as possible, and perhaps succeed. Then you will be feared– and detested.

Or you can serve for the good of others. You will probably have less power. But you will be respected and loved.

Meet the new boss

In a delightful gift to lovers of irony worldwide, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and imperialist cowboy Barack Obama has launched the US into yet another war in yet another sovereign nation in the Middle East. Key difference: this time it’s to remove someone who nobody regards as a threat to the US.

Barack Obama, 19 March 2011:

Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.

“In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.

George W. Bush, 19 March 2003:

My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.

On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war. These are opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign.

More than 35 countries are giving crucial support, from the use of naval and air bases, to help with intelligence and logistics, to the deployment of combat units. Every nation in this coalition has chosen to bear the duty and share the honor of serving in our common defense.

Oh, and just for kicks and giggles, Barack Obama, December 2007:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

One can only hope that there’s a brave state senator somewhere who, while not having to take a vote on the matter, will boldly declare his sense of outrage and moral superiority.

(PS This is quite possibly the right thing to do. And I’m sure it was a tough call. The President could, for once, show a modicum of human decency and acknowledge that others before him have had to make similar ones. I doubt W is sitting by the phone.)