Is anyone out there besides me tired of high profile people doing or saying incredibly awful things and then asking for forgiveness once they recognize it is going to “cost” them? Last week Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee “crossed the line,” and the public outrage was immediate. For Roseanne, the consequence was swift, as her new TV show was cancelled, causing many others to lose their jobs as a direct result of her bad behavior. She claims taking Ambien, a sleep medication, played a part in her sending a racist tweet. “I’m not a racist, just an idiot,” she said. Now that’s a new one; that’s the first time I’ve heard that explanation used for why a celebrity behaved badly. All I can say is, the Greek word for that excuse is “baloney.”
Jesus said it best in Luke 6:45c (NLT). “What you say flows from what is in your heart.” If you want to know what is in a person’s heart, just listen to them talk and hear what they really think.
I’m not the Holy Spirit, and my job isn’t to judge people’s motives and sincerity as to whether their apology is authentic when it is offered. However, I always wonder if the apology would be given if there was no public outcry, and the comment was just ignored. Recently I revisited Dr. Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas’ book The Five Languages of an Apology. Here’s a summary of what they shared about an appropriate apology.
- Express regret, show remorse by saying “I’m sorry” and acknowledge the hurtful effects of your action. 2. Accept responsibility by saying, “I was wrong.” Name your mistake and accept and own the pain that you have caused. 3. Make restitution by asking, “What can I do to make this right?” Is there physical damage that needs to be amended for or character damage that needs to be repaired? 4. Express true repentance by stating, “With God’s help I will do my very best never to make this mistake again.” 5. Request forgiveness by asking, “Will you please forgive me?” but be patient with the individual(s) and give them time to heal.
Now, before I get bombarded with well-meaning people reacting to my somewhat cynical feeling about celebrities who act badly and then want immediate exoneration, let me acknowledge I don’t have stones in my hands. I do have some sincere reservations on when an apology is really sincere or when the perpetrator is just sorry they were caught and the consequence has become painful and expensive. I believe their apologies would be more believable if Roseanne and Samantha would invite Valerie Jarrett and Ivanka Trump out for lunch and listen to their stories. Let me quote my friend Mark Krohn who said, “Hate is easy when you don’t know someone.”
Why take an entire blog to rehash two celebrities’ uncivil comments? It’s because I’m deeply troubled by the firestorm of incivility, which continues to spew out hate speech like the lava that is exploding from the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii. And I’m not just referring to Hollywood or the secular community. It’s sadly Christians also, people who say they follow in the ways of Jesus, who are some of the most vicious in their comments.
The volcano just referred to is actually a great picture of what is happening in our nation as it relates to inappropriate behavior through social media and other venues. I’m not an expert on all of the dynamics of what is behind the creating of a volcanic reaction. One thing I do know is that there has been a percolating of fires and forces for a period of time, and the eruption is only the visible reaction to what has been happening underground. People’s homes and lives have been impacted by this natural disaster. Be assured when the volcanic eruptions of the Roseanne’s and Samantha’s of the world occur, good people are hurt in the process.
There are many Scripture passages that talk about the damage that our tongues can do when we choose to use uncivil, hateful speech. James 3:6 (ASV) says, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” Further on in that same chapter, in verses 9 and 10 (NIV) we read, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
So, two challenges as I close. First, guard your tongue and your words carefully. And trust me, I’m talking to myself on this one as much as to anyone. We can do great damage to our Christian testimony if on one hand we say we love God and want to bring others into a saving relationship with him, while on the other hand we’re bashing our friends for their political beliefs that don’t line up with our own. Second, if you say or do things that are clearly over the line, before you apologize, make sure you really mean it. When you apologize follow Dr. Chapman’s counsel for a proper apology. The timbre of your remorse will leave the one you have offended wondering if it was a “Sorry, not sorry” apology. Or, they will hear and feel your heart saying, “I am really sorry!”