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Apologize like you mean it

"Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so you apologize for truth."

- Benjamin Disraeli, former British prime minister

"It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one's heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize."

- Stephen Covey, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"

Just once, I'd like to see a public figure with a backbone when it comes to apologies.

The list of celebrities, politicians, athletes and officials who have had to offer up some sort of public apology for various offenses seems to grow with the importance we place on our MTV-reality-show-everybody-is-famous-everybody-is-important-pop-culture lifestyle.

The more people we put in the spotlight, the more blemishes we find. If we find a blemish that offends us, we demand an apology. The offender then publicly offers his half-hearted regret and we move on to the next train wreck. Such is the cycle.

But two rarities in this repeating drama are 1) actual, sincere contrition or 2) refusal to apologize because the offender thought he was right at the time and still does.

Either one would be refreshing these days.

I don't know exactly who set the precedent for the un-apology or the apology of convenience, but history is loaded with examples.

John Lennon decided the Beatles were not, in fact, "more popular than Jesus," after radio stations quit playing his records and religious groups began destroying them. What happened, John? Where'd the rock 'n' roll attitude go? Couldn't "imagine no possessions?"

There was Nixon, of course, who was not a crook. Or was, depending on how many people in an administration must resign or go to jail before the head honcho is guilty of something.

Mike Tyson apologized to Evander Holyfield for trying to eat him instead of beat him in the ring, but then said he regretted the match didn't go longer so "the boxing fans of the world might see for themselves who would come out on top." If you thought you'd win, why bite Holyfield's ear off, Mike?

And, of course, there's the sugardaddy of them all: Bill Clinton. Two words are conspicuously absent from his 549-word "apology" to the American people after it was apparent he could no longer deny his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Those words are "I'm sorry."

The latest public figures to be presented with a bill for contrition are Mel Gibson and the pope. They're also the latest to offer the pseudo-apology of convenience as payment.

Gibson, a zillionaire movie star with an admitted drinking problem, got in trouble because he recited his thoughts on Jews being "responsible for all the wars in the world" during his arrest on DUI charges. The next day Gibson had an apparent complete change of heart and told the world so. "I'm not a bigot," he said.

A few days ago the pope found himself in a similar situation with a different religion - Islam. (You know, the one we're not at war with.) During a speech in Germany, the pope quoted a 14th century text that called Islam evil and inhuman. The pope later said he regretted the reaction caused by the statements. He didn't say he was sorry. He just regretted it.

Here's the thing, famous people: If you're wrong, say so, but say so sincerely. Convince us of your contrition. But if you think you're right or you're not really sorry, don't offer up your BS "apology" just to get the world off your back.

Mel, you admitted saying those things, and like it or not, there's a reason why alcohol is sometimes called truth serum. Did you really have a moment of clarity after you sobered up where you realized you were wrong? Or did your agent and your manager beg you to apologize quickly to protect your Hollywood money machine?

The world may never know for sure. But if you're really, truly sorry, then I hope the world forgives you and you get the help you need. If your apology was only to keep future movies from tanking, then I'd prefer more rants. At least they would be sincere.

As for the pope: Is Islam a threat to Christianity or not? If it is, then say so, and be ready to defend the faith. You are, after all, supposed to be the church's biggest protector. If Islam is not a threat and you really desire peace with Muslims, then choose your words more carefully and quit ticking off a couple billion people.

Quite frankly, Muslims, Christians and Jews have enough problems. The world doesn't need anyone kicking those beehives. What it needs is more people who are sincere, forthright, able to admit when they're wrong and courageous when they think they're right. And it needs less self-serving wishy-washiness.

And I'm not sorry I said it.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com Have any thoughts about this column? Share them with us at letters@gwinnettdailypost.com. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.