The Power of a Good Apology

2010 has been like an episode of Men Behaving Badly.  Famous men doing terrible things.  Each time, we wait for an apology and then wage our bets to see if words can make up for bad behavior.

  • Now ousted-CEO Tony Hayward of BP had this to say before Congress in June, referring to the explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig, "They never should have happened -- and I am deeply sorry that they did...My sadness has   only grown as the disaster continues."

  • We could too-easily reference Tiger Woods' famous apology to his wife and family for a pattern of infidelity.  The press conference included friends and family at his side but not his wife or children.

In each case, lives have been ruined and moments of self-centered behavior have led to untold pain.  We feel like rubber-neckers who are driving by accidents on the freeway.  I've even found myself asking, "Don't they realize the pain they're causing?"  Apparently not.

Here are some observations about the power of a good apology:

  1. To apologize is to be human. No one is above or exempt from saying they're sorry.  I recently neglected an important anniversary in the lives of two people I love very much.  No excuses could be made and a deep and enduring apology ensued.  I felt awful.

  2. To go beyond it, own it. This involves deep introspection and you have to reach a point where you look in the mirror and admit that at least part of the problem is, well, you.  Own it and move on.  Accept full responsibility- it's the only way.

  3. Follow up with concrete actions. A personal note, flowers, gifts, and more are all good starts but it will take much more to amend a wrong committed against someone else.  This could take weeks or even years.

Through all of this, the wise perspective of Stephen Covey still holds true,

"Remember the emotional bank account—similar to a bank account, you can make deposits or withdrawals from each of your family relationships. Make a conscious effort to make meaningful deposits in your relationships. When you make a withdrawal, apologize and correct the mistake."

As you go through your week, starting each day with some devotional time, focus on being fully present where you are.  This is truly "practicing the presence of God" and will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling and honest life.

*Photo by Dave Keeshan