What’s Wrong With Saying I Am Sorry?

April 8, 2019

Unfortunately, we live in an age in which politicians on all levels, and in particular on the national stage are adverse to admitting wrong and following through with a public apology. Whether it’s Joe Biden touching women who don’t want to be touched or Donald Trump refusing to say he is wrong and then lying about it, the moral code of just saying “I’m sorry” is sadly in decline.

Most of this refusal to apologize is born of enormous ego trips and perhaps in Trump’s case a psychological defect, but it would be refreshing if political leaders just climbed down from their high horse and admit that they were wrong on a public policy issue or a behavior pattern. We are living in a time when too many Americans take their cues from political elites and just stonewall their response to a problem or personal defect. Yet, there are still countless examples from daily life where we humble ourselves and say “I’m sorry.” Husbands and wives end a fight with I’m sorry;  children run to their parents after some minor dispute and say I’m sorry; members of a church community are often advised by their pastors to say I’m sorry ( the Catholic Church calls it reconciliation); and neighbors often end a petty disagreement with a handshake and an apology.

But not in Washington.  What replaces the apology is the blame game – the political opponent or partisan group that challenges a leader for a miscue is instead characterized as at fault and the spin agents enter the fray and provide the media with all kinds of excuses for just saying ” I’m sorry.” No apology just theatrics. This refusal to apologize for an obvious error in judgment or outright lie is one of the contributing factors in our political malaise. Telling the truth is downgraded and admitting wrongdoing is a political strategy to be avoided at all costs. You would think that political leaders who want to win elections or hold onto power would just try out the truth/apology model and regain the trust of voters with an old fashioned tactic. Certainly President Trump has championed the no apology strategy but Democrats are no better, especially the army of candidates for the White House in 2020.

There is a lot of work that has to be done in order to get this country and its political culture back on track to moral and ethical normalcy, but a good start would be for politicians to simply say  I’m sorry.” I know its risky these days, but it is worth a try.

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