When ‘I’m Sorry’ Doesn’t Cut It

Before I had even joined the Air Force, I had memorized its core values: Integrity first, Service before self, Excellence in all we do.  As a candidate in Officer Training School, I saw these values played out many times in different scenarios meant to teach us what these values look like in practice.  What I learned was not new to me; I was raised to believe I should do what’s right, even when no one is looking, and always work hard, yet I appreciated having these succinct phrases to name what I believed.

After this past week, I’m starting to think that more organizations should adopt them, too.

This year has been the year for public apologies.  From politicians expressing remorse for their inappropriate relationships to sports figures apologizing for their reckless behavior on and off the field to a CEO lamenting the worst oil spill ever decimating the Gulf Coast, I’ve watched countless individuals offer their confessions over the air waves.  Yet I have to wonder, for whose benefit are these apologies?

In this day and age of attorney-crafted public statements, we all realize that for many of these people, they are simply doing what a public figure is supposed to do after messing up.  As far as true acts of contrition, there are none.  Can one truly have remorse for an action if one’s public statement is crafted in such a way as to admit no guilt?

Instead of spending energy crafting the perfect apology, I have a better idea: Do what’s right the first time.  Don’t cheat on your wife, don’t berate a line judge with profanities, and don’t cut corners in your business.  Integrity first. Service before Self. Excellence in all we do.

I believe in forgiveness as I have been forgiven much by my God, yet I also believe that actions have consequences.  True repentance brings with it the acceptance of these consequences.  True repentance isn’t something that happens merely because one gets caught, and true repentance isn’t found in the pen of the lawyer.

As I watch the live feeds of oil gushing into the once clear Gulf waters, volunteers caring for pelicans covered in the thick sludge, I’m not concerned with anyone’s public statement. The fact is this tragedy never should have happened.

Living life by a strict code of conduct isn’t always easy.  Controlling one’s emotions isn’t always easy.  Staying faithful isn’t always easy.  But I’d imagine, neither is the clean-up when one doesn’t.

10 thoughts on “When ‘I’m Sorry’ Doesn’t Cut It

  1. I always try to remember that while living by these values may not be the easiest thing at times (going against the flow, going against what everyone else is doing and thinks is okay, standing up for what you believe in contrast to what other people don't care about) YET if we do manage to stand our ground, embed these values into our character and attempt to practice them every day, our lives become so much easier!
    Thank you for sharing this!

    pia

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    1. Thank you for commenting! I, agree–I believe God gave us His standard to live by not as a burden but to actually enhance our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes we're all guilty of forgetting that point.

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  2. Jennifer
    Absolutely right on !
    I am pretty sure that those apologies are necessary because the core value was not there to begin with.
    It is a difference between guilt and guilty fear. Guilt can be a healthy pro-social emotion which is guided by the values of our conscience
    Guilty fear is "getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar".
    I came across the concept while studying the behavior of Adam and Eve in chapter 3 Genesis, after eating the apple and hiding from God.
    Found it in the book "On Becoming Human" – by Willard Gaylin, a religious catholic psychoanalyst
    Appreciate your posts

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  3. i’m going to date myself here, but honestly i cannot remember people behaving so badly (for the whole world to see) when i was younger. There were a few bad apples in every walk of life, but they were the exception. We’ve become too watered down in what we are willing to tolerate as “acceptable.” Manners hardly exist. Language on FB is disgusting and people walking around someone who’s been hit by a car! Just realized i sound like Grandma. BUT, i admit she was right on with some of her views. How can you make people do the right thing?

    Love, Mom

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