Apologies after Sexual Misconduct: Genuine or Phony?
Many men must be shaking in their boots.
How many more accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior will make the front-page news? And when it does, how will the men respond?
If they take their lead from the President of the United States, who was called on the carpet for his sexually degrading remarks during the election season, they will make an apology that is insincere, inadequate and insipid. “I said it; I was wrong; and I apologized” was designed to call off the dogs and get back to the business of attacking Hillary.
Recently, Harvey Weinstein’s apology denied much of what he was accused of doing. And, he blamed his inappropriate behavior on his anger issues for which he will (finally) seek treatment. Kevin Spacey’s apology was also conditional, for he claimed he doesn’t really remember assaulting actor Anthony Rapp nor groping anyone else.
Now comes comedian Louis C.K. whose mea culpa is considered by many as a step in the right direction. Of course, we don’t truly know if his apology was sincere or if he had spot-on advisers who wrote his repentance speech for him.
Nevertheless, it’s worth examining his apology, which appears to be genuine in many ways:
- A genuine apology admits the truth, pure and simple
“These stories are true,” comedian Louis C.K. said in his statement regarding his sexually inappropriate behavior toward five women. No ifs, ands, or buts.
- An authentic apology admits openly and honestly that you were wrong
It directly acknowledges the hurt you caused, the harm you did. There is no fudging, no whitewashing, no self-serving spin to get you off the hook. Louis C.K. said, “The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly… Now I’m aware of the extent of the impact of my actions… There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with.”
- A sincere apology is empathetic, not arrogant
It requires you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to imagine what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of your behavior. You must listen to what others are saying, and do your best to understand what they’re feeling. Your consciousness must be raised as you learn from the experience. Louis C.K. said, “The hardest regret to live with is what you’ve done to hurt someone else. And I can hardly wrap my head around the scope of hurt I bought on them. I’d be remiss to exclude the hurt that I’ve brought on people who I work with and have worked with whose professional and personal lives have been impacted by all of this…”
So Louis C. K.’s apology sounds pretty good. However, there are some things he didn’t say.
What many people are upset about is that he didn’t say the simple words, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the hurt, pain and anguish I’ve caused and the disappointment I’ve been to so many people who believed in me.”
A sincere “sorry” is humbling, particularly for a person in power. It recognizes that you need to “beg the other person’s pardon.” You cannot forgive yourself. It’s up to the ones you hurt to forgive you. You must listen. You must learn. You must change your behavior. You must modify your beliefs. You must alter your actions. You must accept responsibility. You must seek to make restitution. And you must recognize that all that takes time. A simple “I’m sorry, let’s get on with it” won’t do.
Furthermore, to be genuine, an apology requires that you are aware that your behavior is inconsistent with your deeply held values. If this isn’t true, an apology, no matter how many times you say it and how many ways you spin it, will always mean zilch.
Sapadin, L. (2018). Apologies after Sexual Misconduct: Genuine or Phony?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/apologies-after-sexual-misconduct-genuine-or-phony/