Thursday, September 25, 2008
The Art of Apology
Two $700 Billion Words—I’m Sorry
by Valerie Haynes Perry
Seems like everywhere you go, there is misery. In this country, for many of us (but not all), that misery is relative. The film, Trouble the Water, about the Hurricane Katrina disaster offers those of us who were not there a powerful visual of what it was, is, and will be like in one of many severely and shamelessly neglected areas of this great country.
A troubling force threatens this greatness. Anyone with feelings, conscience, and a heart is finding difficulty escaping the growing reach of this troubling force. Common sense is no longer common. Conscience no longer appears to be a given, making the likelihood of reconciliation and healing dimmer as panaceas for nudging life toward healthy balance.
In the midst of all this turmoil, could there be the beginnings of a simple remedy? Some of us believe that nature provides all cures for all maladies. Could two words, were they to dare their own expression by the powerful, be worth $700 billion? Could those simple words, a total of three modest syllables be—I’m sorry? Clearly, they would have to be uttered with unparalleled sincerity.
Imagine all of the possibilities that could unfold from there. Here are two potential groups of people who could change the world if something in them was stirred to make them give this fresh approach a try:
World leaders who know the errors of their ways.
CEOs and managers who need to see employees as people rather than means to hold on to power at all costs, adding to it, and ruining everyone.
To say the obvious, any world leaders or CEOs who are benevolent should not take offense because in their heart of hearts, they know they have a heart. They have a conscience. It is only the guilty who should feel defensive. Then, if they will bring themselves to apologize, there will be opportunities to enact positive change.
It seems that this notion of apology is an entirely foreign concept to many among us. Perhaps its power can be communicated best by recalling what it means, according to the tenth edition of Webster’s dictionary.
Wait a minute. You know how you’re looking up one word and another grabs your attention? That just happened, so let’s begin with the following word:
Apodictic: expressing or of the nature of necessary truth or absolute certainty.
Now for apology:
A formal justification: defense (apologia).
An admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.
A poor substitute.
So it seems that many of those yielding the most power over others confuse apologia (defense) with apology (remorse). What can be done about this mess?
I’m sorry. I just don’t know.
By the way, apology also works well on the individual level—one on one.