The IP Weekly
On the surface this may appear to be yet another piece about the Will Smith slap at The Oscars. It’s not. This is about apologies and our collective cynicism and will start with the apology Smith posted on his Instagram earlier this week.
All week I have read many, many “takes” on Smith’s actions and what it means from every possible angle. For me, it is a single regrettable event that should be dealt with by the appropriate parties and not be a referendum on life, masculinity, women’s voices, violence, or any other topic. Smith issued an apology on Monday that included an apology to Chris Rock and I have heard too many takes about that too.
We have collectively become too suspicious of apologies. This is likely due to the fact that we force each and every public figure to craft one any time they have done something wrong in someone’s eyes. Many of the apologies are likely crafted by PR firms and lack sincerity, but they can’t all be guilty of that. I would like to believe that most apologies come from the heart, that most people know when they have done something that warrants an apology.
I am no fan of forced apologies. In my role as a school principal I routinely refused to force students to apologize to anyone. When we force apologies we aren’t looking for growth we are hoping for retribution. I always felt that conversation was more productive than a forced apology. I feel that way with adults too. Worse though is that we have become convinced that all apologies are forced and thus insincere. I don’t know how Will Smith really feels about his actions or about Chris Rock. I do know that my own feelings are usually complicated, not about this…about most things. And I assume that most people are like me.
It often takes me some time before I am ready to apologize for my actions when appropriate. I need my head to clear, to seek advice from people I trust, find the right words, the right time and the right place. So, that it took Smith some time doesn’t surprise me. My mind doesn’t immediately go to a bad place like Smith had to apologize and had this written by his team. I think devaluing apologies is dangerous for our culture. Being suspicious of apologies is akin to losing trust in each other and we have already seen how little we trust in society today. Dismissing apologies is just the next step on the ladder as we descend into chaos.
Often I try to think of things in the simplest of terms. When my children apologize to me after an argument or some other affront I need to trust that it’s sincere. More importantly, I need them to feel that way when I apologize to them. We should be more welcoming of the apology and more trusting that people actually know right from wrong and when apologies are real. By the way, we should also stop forcing people…our kids, our friends, our athletes or public personalities to apologize. Those forced apologies are having a negative impact on us all.