S is for Sorry…and Second Chances

How DO we give someone a second chance after an apology?

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal recently: I’m Very, Very, Very Sorry … Really? We Apologize More to Strangers Than Family, and Why Women Ask for Forgiveness More by ELIZABETH BERNSTEIN. Fascinating stuff. Also intriguing is this graphic indicating the hierarchy of apologies, from most to least effective.

There was a sidebar called “Saying ‘I’m Sorry'” which declares, “A ‘comprehensive’ apology is more likely to win forgiveness, researchers say. There are eight elements,” according to the University of Waterloo:
Acceptance of responsibility
Admission of wrongdoing
Acknowledgment of harm
Promise to behave better
Request for forgiveness
Offer of repair

Probably the apology I hate the most is the one that goes, “I’m sorry if you’re feeling bad,” (or whatever) as though it is MY fault that THEIR inappropriate behavior bothered me. In general, a bad apology – usually followed by the sentence, “Let’s move on” – is about as bad as no apology at all.

So how DO we give someone a second chance after an apology? I think about this, a lot.

Eliot Spitzer was governor of New York State. As state Attorney General and as governor, he slept with expensive call girls; he was designated as “Client 9.” He had to resign as governor, not because he cheated on his wife, but because the “sheriff of Wall Street” was a hypocrite, prosecuting the very laws he was breaking. They’ve even made a movie called “Client 9”: The Eliot Spitzer case: How we were bamboozled. “An intriguing new movie dissects the thicket of money, lies, and rumors around the governor’s downfall.” Now he has a TV news show with Kathleen Parker. Should he be given a second chance? I say: Yes. He apologized and lost his office. And from sources I trust, he is good at what he does.

Michael Vick was the very talented quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football League. “In April 2007, Vick was implicated in an illegal interstate dogfighting ring that had operated over five years [some of it on property he owned]. In August 2007, he pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 21 months in prison, followed by two months in home confinement.” He has subsequently: filed for bankruptcy, and has been picked up as the Philadelphia Eagles’ backup quarterback, playing as the starter (when healthy) after the Eagles traded former starter, Donovan McNabb, to Washington. Should he be given a second chance? I say: Yes. He has also been mandated to be involved in making others aware of the wrongness of animal cruelty.

I’m sure there are other examples, such as actor Mel Gibson, who got booted from the movie The Hangover 2 because of several incidents, some involving him seeming to threaten the mother of his youngest child, that you can discuss. From a purely business decision, they might have thought Gibson would have been box office poison.

What do YOU think, about these and any other examples you can think of?

ABC Wednesday – Round 7

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

36 thoughts on “S is for Sorry…and Second Chances”

  1. Anybody deserves a second chance! But… if a former friend apologizes, and apology is accepted, it’s difficult to become friends again.If I had been very much insulted, I consider him or her not more than an acquaintance.

    Roger, but your post is really very great. You always have posts which make people think!Thank you!

  2. It seems each time a famous person makes a terrible mistake, as soon as it is found out, the next day they hold the ever famous news conferences to say how sorry they are. I wonder if they are sorry for what they did, or sorry they got caught. I don’t really put to much stock in the their so called apologies. But, then again, I really don’t care.

  3. Yes, you do make people think, Roger. That’s great.
    It depends who is doing the forgiving, in my opinion. The public at large can forgive in a general way, but for a victim to forgive it, it has to be in a specific way, which might be more difficult. Has the offender made amends, for instance?
    Michael Vick was told to speak about cruelty to animals, but is he speaking sincerely? Is he truly sorry he participated in animal cruelty, or is he just sorry he got caught? Is it, as Anthony North suggests, purely as a tactic?
    Being truly sorry and willing to make amends in order to right the wrongs – yes, I’m all for forgiveness. But to say to the victim(s), “Oops, sorry, kiddo, better luck next time” is blatantly insincere.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  4. Great post as always, Roger. I’m always willing to accept an apology, but it is sometimes a little harder to totally trust someone again who has lied to you. I guess it really depends on the depth of the relationship and, once again, just how well do you really know the person. Have a great Thanksgiving, Roger, and I promise to forgive you if you eat too much turkey even though I’m sure you won’t be sorry!


  5. It’s an important subject!I think it’s easy to say “sorry”but it’s difficult to know if it’s really “true”inside the heart.
    I think a “second chance”depends on what is about inside the heart as well…
    It’s also difficult to say “I give you a chance, it’s true, I forgive you”.

  6. Sorry is interesting to me because it can mean so many different things. I’ve said I was sorry about the way someone felt and they said, well it’s not your fault. I never meant it was my fault but I grew up with sorry being used for sympathy as well as apology. I think it can be a very confusing word. You did a good job with the word and how it can make things worse.

  7. Hmmmm I had to say sorry recently – to a dear friend – seems my “forgiveness” will be a long drawn out process! I read a quotation somewhere which really captured the moment – will see if I can find it & share it with you.
    Thaks as ever Roger – your posts always make us think!

  8. Ah, the complexity of sorry. Some things can be readily forgiven, some not so much…at least in my book. Sorry is tied to trust which creates larger circles. šŸ˜‰ Provocative post.

  9. Sorry can be such a flippant word. Maybe please forgive me is more heartfelt. Its easier to forgive than to forget.
    Great post Roger. I’m glad I have been given second chances.

  10. “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” as Elton John sang, and sometimes it is but when in the wrong its got to be done. Everyone (unless they have committed an extreme crime) should be given a second chance but I don’t always believe the celebrity ones. Their and anyone else’s future actions probably tell how heartfelt the apology was.

  11. I think almost everyone deserves a second chance. I know I have sometimes felt truly sorry, so I HAVE to believe others can be sincere too. Sometimes it takes a long time to grant forgiveness but for sound health it’s in our own best interest to do so.

  12. This is a great entry. I will definitely memorize 8 elements when I have to say “sorry” to my wife! Thanks for sharing.
    Have a wonderful day.

  13. I think it depends on the sincerity behind the apology (as in those 8 points described0. Sorry is not an eraser to erase your mistakes with, but if one can learn from it and have a positive outcome, yes. Besides, life is too short.

  14. You confirmed what we women know, Sorry is not in men’s vocab, this man I am commenting is the exception.

    I suppose you read all the books and comics when you were working there.

    This term, I had to teach my student how to draw comics, One BIG head, and the rest a small stick body. They love it.

    How come there are not many female super heros? LOL

  15. Very thought provoking! Saying sorry shouldn’t be difficult, but it does need to be sincere! Not too many can do that well I think.
    Second chances should be given but you are always watching!

  16. Roger, Another thought provoking post so thank you. My husband is totally going through the roof re the news that Jane Fonda will be featured on Barbara Walter’s “One Hundred Years of Great Women” show. He was telling me details of what Fonda’s actions during her infamous North Vietnamese visit those many years ago. I’m not sure that “sorry” was enough in this case. Plus I’ve always felt that actions speak way more volumes than words.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  17. What an interesting entry.

    IMO, apologies and second chances are relative and intangible, but when backed up with actions in good faith I think they could yield a more solidified path to healing.

  18. It seems today’s young generation is taught to say “sorry” and in doing so that makes everything “ok”. AT some point I believe “sorry” just becomes another word for them and not really something that is sincere.
    Yes, a second chance, but 3rd and 4th, etc …???
    Once you loose creditability … it’s very hard to get it back.

    It is very true …
    Actions speak louder than words.

  19. Interesting post. I feel that if you just say “Sorry” and not “I’m sorry” it holds less weight. Much like sayin “love you” is a little more casual than “I love your”.

  20. Apologies are very difficult and all too often insincere. The ‘celebrities’ who apologise and then go on to have affluent careers are hard to believe. Even so, everyone deserves a second chance

  21. A very thought-provoking post! And one that demands honesty.

    I don’t know the story of the governor of NY. I do know the story of Michael Vick, and I find it very hard to forgive him and accept that he’s back in the NFL. Yes, he’s ‘done his time’ in prison, and yes, perhaps he’s speaking out against cruely, but the fact that he was completely happy to continue fighting dogs, or supporting the fighting of dogs, for five years (or until he was caught) tells me that if he hadn’t been caught, he’d still be doing it. It’s a most abominable practice, and if he couldn’t see that for himself in five years, then I doubt being caught, punished, and made to speak on the subject will make him see it.

    Being sorry is a state of mind, or of soul. It isn’t a matter of words or forced actions. If Vick is truly repentant, then yes, he deserves a second chance as anyone does. If he is only ‘sorry’ for necessity and expedience, then no, he doesn’t.

  22. Hi Roger, that is a good one. I am always thinking this, but thank god I don’t actually have to use it! Second chance is what we all wish we had one time or the other.

  23. a second chance?? well, yes i can give that but don’t expect me to trust you again haha.

    Thanks for the visit and comment Roger.

  24. Nice and thought provoking post. I believe in giving second chances when the person has apologised and served his/her sentence. But then sometimes it is hard to give a second chance.

  25. Thought-provoking and yet the WSJ article’s author and UoW seemed to have missed so many valid points. It IS possible for someone to take offense about something and the “offender” not to know what s/he did to cause a problem. Just dealt with something last week that fell into this category.

    I don’t want promises. I want to see action. Words are easy. Actions much more difficult.

  26. It comes down to taking responsibility for our actions and realizing that when we have caused grief or hurt to another individual. Sometimes I’m sorry just is not enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial