Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Pam
Pam Frampton
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“(T)here’s an art in being abject. When done right, a mea culpa can do more than save your career, it can bolster it. Just ask Hugh (I-Did-a-Bad-Thing) Grant. Here are some tips on getting contrite right.”

— from the U.K. Guardian’s

U.S. News Blog, July 26, 2012

Is it just me or has apologizing become North America’s favourite pastime?

Conservative MP Rob Anders is sorry for suggesting that NDP Leader Tom Mulcair “helped to hasten” the death of his predecessor, Jack Layton, by spurring him on to fight a tough election at a time when his health was fragile.

Married country singer Jason Aldean regrets drinking too much and acting inappropriately at a bar, cosying up to “American Idol” contestant Brittany Kerr.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is so contrite it took a whole book for him to list his transgressions — cheating on this wife, fathering a child with another woman, keeping his spouse out of the loop on his career choices. Maybe he’ll find catharsis on the talk-show circuit.

Actress Kristen Stewart regrets having been unfaithful to her “Twilight” series love interest and real-life beau Robert Pattison, and issued a public apology that has been praised for its savviness.

“I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I’ve caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected,” she said. “This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry.”

The U.K. Guardian has given that apology a big two thumbs up, saying it “has quickly become a model for the modern-day celebrity apology: it was brief, it was restrained and it was issued on the People website.”

Stewart’s “momentary indiscretion” was with Rupert Sanders, the director of her new film, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” who is married and the father of two young children.

Not to be outdone — and, frankly, who could outdo his overwrought prose? — he made his own public declaration:

“I am utterly distraught about the pain I have caused my family,” he told People magazine. “My beautiful wife and heavenly children are all I have in this world. I love them with all my heart. I am praying that we can get through this together.”

The cynic in me suspects these heartfelt protestations were more about protecting brand and shoring up fan support and box office attendance than anything else.

After all, wouldn’t the apologies be more effective if they were delivered in private to the wounded parties rather than issued to the public in a manner that only repeats the hurtful truth?

They have their place

Don’t get me wrong — there are occasions when nothing less than a formal, public apology will do.

In 2005, for example, then premier Danny Williams apologized on behalf of the province to the Inuit who had been relocated from their homes in the Labrador communities of Nutak and Hebron.

In June 2006, he apologized to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Chinese community for the imposition of a head tax on Chinese immigrants between 1906 and 1949.

These past actions by past governments had a profound effect on the people involved. Making public apologies in those cases was the right thing to do.

But they start to seem less right and more for effect in circumstances where, if the person had simply exercised some common sense in the first place, there’d be nothing to apologize for.

Celebrities and politicians are in the public eye, and they must know that any indiscretion of theirs will be magnified through the lens of public criticism, exacerbating the hurt and humiliation to their loved ones.

Those types of mea culpa are so common now, they’re meaningless. Still, websites and self-help books abound offering how-to tips on saying sorry.

The website perfectapology.com offers examples of celebrity apologies that were effective and those that bombed. Reading them, it quickly becomes obvious that not everyone takes the advice of their publicist or spiritual counsel.

In talking to Rolling Stone magazine in January 2011 about having used the offensive N-word, American singer John Mayer offered this quizzical apology: “I will continue to make these worldwide dignity mistakes as often as it takes to not make them anymore.”

Huh?

Of course, it’s not just celebrities who fall from grace. Politicians often run afoul of prudence and find themselves trying to gather a few shreds of credibility with which to patch up their tattered reputation.

One of the most bizarre revelations from the States involves a rookie Kansas congressman who found himself having to bare his soul to the electorate after baring everything else during a 2011 trip to the Sea of Galilee.

I guess no one told him it might be considered offensive to skinny dip in the place where Jesus is thought to have walked on water.

Kevin Yoder apologized to The Kansas City Star on Aug. 19.

As the Associated Press reported, he said: “The gravity of the situation and the actions I’ve taken are not lost on me, and I feel certainly regret at what has occurred, and I just want to apologize to my constituents for a momentary lapse in judgment.”

Yoder was among 20 other politicians who decided to take a dip. Problem is, he’s the only one who went in au naturel.

Now, no one expects celebrities, politicians and other public figures to walk on water, but perhaps if they spent a little more time on forethought, they’d be less likely to have to defend their boneheaded behaviour on the world stage.

Just ask Bill Clinton.

Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor.

She can be reached by email at

pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: U.K. Guardian, S. News, Snow White Huntsman People magazine Rolling Stone magazine Kansas City Star Associated Press

Geographic location: North America, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nutak Kansas

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Recent comments

  • Doug Smith
    October 09, 2012 - 18:14

    Peter L, I don’t know how you can separate, “Sunday Christians” from “religious” people. It doesn’t make sense to me. They (Sunday Christians) support their church and even give money to it. Is not those you say that are “religious”, really religious fanatics? And we all know what they would do if given the chance. Peter L, as far as you stating that I misquoted a passage from the bible, I have to say you are in error not I. In the passage God was saying , ask me for something and I will give it to you. However I know of many people that have ask their god for something but he never gave them a thing. The point I was making is that it is really rare to find a man or woman that keeps his or her word and that we shouldn’t be surprised since God doesn’t keep his word either. I hope this clears things up for you Peter L. By the way are you the same Peter I had a big long argument with about a year ago? Why not pray to your God for the courage to write your full name at the end of your comments? Doug Smith, GFW

    • PETER L
      October 10, 2012 - 06:52

      DOUG SMITH, first a Sunday Christian only shows up in church on Sundays to say they went, they contribute little in the way of finances and have no knowledge of the bible. Also, like you they quote a line or two trying to show how much they know, but like your quote, they take it out of context. The line or two isn't enough, you must look at all the verses to get the meaning, you take a line to prove something you do not understand. You have done this in the past in other responses.You are as much of a fanatic athiest as some Christians are fanatic in their beliefs. I accept people of all faiths and of no faith, I have friends who are athiest, Hindu, and other religions and I respect that. You appear to have no respect for anyone of any faith and always try to put them down. I do not use my real name because I did once a while ago, did not put anyone down, just explained my own faith, and my children were harassed at school, even by teachers, my wife was harassed at work, and we received threatening calls on the phone and got nutbar fanatical athiest at my door. It's odd that an athiest won't be attacked like that, but a Christian would, there are fanatical athiests around. Just admit Doug Smith that you hate Christians or anyone else that believes in God. At leat now maybe you know the difference between a Sunday Christian and a Believing Christian who is different from a fanatical Christian in that they quietly but sincerely believ and have respect for others, even for athiests.

  • saelcove
    October 09, 2012 - 09:32

    Did you know science is about to prove there is no god

    • PETER L
      October 09, 2012 - 13:15

      SAELCOVE, Science will no more prove that there is no God than religion will prove that there is. The belief in God is just that a belief and faith, that is something that will never be entirely done away with. What science is trying to prove, and has been trying to prove for decades is that there is a God molecule or some other object that started the universe, and so far they have not found it. Even if they did, most religious people would say that God created that, it still had to come from somewhere. The latest test a couple of weeks ago was a failure, study it further.

  • PETER L
    October 09, 2012 - 08:14

    Good point Doug, but the real truth of the matter is that many people who claim to be religious are not. They are what we call "Sunday Christians", they go to church on Sunday yet all through the rest of the week do not practice Biblical teachings of the New Testament. Most have never read the bible or know even what is meant by certain parables or passages. Even you misquote a passage from the bible here, this has nothing to do with one person asking another, but a person asking God for something, and even most Christians don't understand the full implication of that quote. However, I agree with you, even as a devout Christian, the the word of many cannot be relied on, nor can their actions.

  • Doug Smith
    October 06, 2012 - 19:09

    Pam, another insightful column about the way people really are . I would like to add two other observations. It used to be that a man of his word, or a woman of her word, was a person you could trust because you knew they would do what they said they would do. These people are extremely rare, now it seems people, not all, but way too many, now behave on the principle, that it is easier to ask forgiveness than follow through on what they promised. Also, since most people are religious, I can hardly fault them completely in not keeping their word since their deity in the Bible says, “Ask and it will be given…”( Matthew 7:7) but doesn’t come through when asked. So people not following through on what they say or promise, is no different than what we find in the Bible, which is supposed to give guidance on how to behave properly. Doug Smith, GFW