Apology and the fine art of making one


I don’t, as a rule, look to celebrities to serve as role models for my children. I’m not generally on the lookout for anyone to teach my children how to get arrested for a heroin possession or soliciting, and I have rarely had need for anyone to teach my kids how to lie, cheat or have a “wardrobe malfunction” in front of millions of viewers.

Still, every once in a very great while I will concede that celebrities and their antics can come in handy.


My daughter, like nearly every 10-year-old girl on the planet, is an avowed fan of country singing sensation, Taylor Swift. Taylor is a doe-eyed blonde, who sings about things that are appropriate for my daughter to hear AND doesn’t make me want to poke out my own eardrums with a hot stick.

As children’s music goes, she’s a blessing. I confess that I sometimes find myself singing along with Taylor Swift when my daughter is not even in the car. We are a Team Taylor family all the way.

You can imagine the delight, just days ago, when Miss Swift accepted her very first Video Music Award — or tried to.

The MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) are a very big deal. Kind of like an Oscar for musical folk.

You can imagine the thrill that accompanied the announcement that Taylor had scored an award. There she stood on stage in glorious young womanhood. Her dress glittered. Her smile was bright. She stepped forward, prepared to thank her fans and, we are sure, her parents and God and everyone.

This, after all, is what people dream of is it not? That moment when you send your sincerest gratitude out to the people who made you who you are today. You could almost feel the collective sighs of a million young girls across the viewing nation, all thinking, in unison, that they would like to be Taylor too.


She clutched the award, grasped the microphone, leaned forward to speak and, in an instant, fellow singer Kanye West had seized the microphone. He proceeded to storm across the stage and protest — loudly — that another performer deserved the award.

When he returned the microphone, finally, to Taylor’s hands, she could only stare, miserably. Her big moment upstaged, crushed, ruined. The crowd could only stare on in stunned, stony silence.

My daughter, shocked, sputtered “that was MEAN!” Mean indeed.

The fallout was instantaneous and shockingly widespread. Within hours “Swift-gate” was all over the media and Mr. West’s name was mud (or worse).

Even the President of the United States weighed in on antics. Everyone is always saying celebrities are “just like you and me,” but I’ll go out on a limb and say that, bad days aside, few of us have probably ever had the leader of our nation call us a name that is unprintable in a family newspaper.


Within 24 hours of the debacle, the villain, Mr. West, swallowed what shred of his pride remained, faced the music, and honored a prior commitment to appear on national television.

He could have canceled. Hid out. Made excuses. To his credit, he didn’t.

Instead, he did something that was so simple, so elegant, but somehow so rarely heard these days: He apologized, saying: “I knew immediately in this situation that it was wrong. It wasn’t a spectacle; it was actually someone’s emotions that I stepped on. It was rude. Period.”

Thank you Mr. West.


You see, too many people have lost the fine art of saying “I’m sorry.” In our era of armchair psychiatry, apology too often becomes justification. Less “I’m sorry” than “I’m sorry but.”

“I’m sorry I snapped at you, but I was tired.”

“I’m sorry I was rude but I’ve been under a lot of stress lately.”

“I’m sorry I let you down but my behavior can be traced back to my childhood.”

Unfortunately, everything that comes after the “but” typically negates the initial regret entirely.

Seeing someone who had behaved so abysmally, abominably really, hang his head in shame and say, simply “It was rude. Period” was downright refreshing.

You really can find teachable moments in the most unlikely of places. So I pointed out Mr. West and told my daughter that sometimes you just have to suck it up, stand up straight, (but hang your head in well-deserved shame) and say, simply and sincerely, “I screwed up.”

“I was rude.”

“I was wrong, period.”

Learning the fine art of a sincere apology is a lifelong art form. Until we get it right, we fumble. What happens with “but” is that every single justification that comes after the “but” tends to leave you looking — and feeling — like an even bigger one. Butt, that is.

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt says “I’m sorry” about something nearly every single day).

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