Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When is an apology not an apology?

When it's made by the Australian PM, in a public event, but there aren't yet appropriate actions to back it up? It's a fairly new government, so they probably need more time:

After years of calling for an official recognition of the wrongs done to
them by settlers, many Aboriginal leaders and communities (“the first
Australians”) were today rejoicing at the gesture. But they point out that
concrete resources are needed to address the legacy of historical injustices.

When it's made by the Archbishop of Canterbury

I must of course take responsibility for any unclarity in either that text
or in the radio interview, and for any misleading choice of words that has
helped to cause distress or misunderstanding among the public at large and
especially among my fellow Christians . It's Lent, and one of the great
penitential phrases of the Psalms will be in all our minds – 'Who can tell how
oft he offendeth? Cleanse thou me from my secret faults'.

...but heavily qualified, since there are major questions over whether he has anything to apologise for, or whether it is wilful misinterpretation by the media which has done more damage. The most pathetic sight of the last few days has been the BBC news trying to find somebody, anybody, in the CofE who wants Rowan Williams to resign, in a desperate attempt to keep the story running, covering up the fact that they don't currently employ anyone sufficiently knowledgeable about Islam and Christianity to really deal with the story properly.

When it's made by Dwain Chambers, who apologises, pays the penalty, changes his behaviour, and then is too good on his return to the sport. There's the question about whether he's sorry he did drugs, or sorry he got caught, but he's certainly got guts.

Tis the season to be sorry, being Lent, and maybe Gary Chapmans 'The 5 languages of apology' can help us here. There are, he says, 5 broad ways in which we apologise. Different ones come naturally to different people, and resonate with different people:
Express Regret
Accept Responsibility
Make Restitution
Geniunely Repent
Request Forgiveness

This suggests that, unless we do most of them all in one go, there will always be people who feel we haven't properly apologised. Drat.

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