Sandy Springs: The lost art of the humble apology

Apologies have somehow lost their value in making amends, and instead have become a collectible — deserved or not. For a living example let us ride out I-20 to the east, where Tiger Woods is playing in the Masters this weekend.

As most know, late last year Woods’ wife discovered some of his practice rounds, while away from home, were not taking place at the golf course. In February he held a press conference apologizing to his wife, his mother, his fans — the list seemed endless.

Then earlier this week he was told he needed to make reparations twice more. The first to women, for choosing an all-male country club as the venue for his first tournament this year. The second to his alleged mistress, Joslyn James. James, an adult-film performer, did not travel to Augusta seeking a mea culpa, however, as she is entertaining at a local burlesque house.

When does it stop? There used to be something referred to as “a simple apology.” It consisted of the transgressor seeking out the injured party, looking that person in the eye and saying “I’m sorry.” A handshake was sometimes involved, and that was pretty much it.

The tacit aspect of the apology was the unspoken pledge that the offense would not happen again. We appear to have lost our assuagement with that, because now that simple apology must factor in secondary and tertiary aggrieved parties. There is a frenzy to collect them like a squirrel gathering acorns against the looming first frost.

When someone makes a public gaffe, or is caught doing something he or she should not, that person is thrust into a no-win situation. Say nothing and get assailed for not apologizing. Apologize and the apology is never inclusive enough. There is always someone waiting in line for his or her redress.

When Woods is finished apologizing to women and porn stars, I’d like him to apologize to husbands like me who have never meandered in the marital sense, because he might have planted a seed of doubt in the minds of our wives.

Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong. Apologizing looks as though it has the makings of a crackerjack hobby — something one can do to while away the hours when one needs some down time.

We could all take a personal day once a month and see how many apologies we can offer to how many people. For a certain number of requitals one gets a free cup of coffee. Make the rounds to all special interest groups and earn points to be used at hotels. Universities could offer doctoral programs in exculpation and quittance.

Some may feel as though I am making the amends process trivial, but I’m sorry to say that has already happened.

Jim Osterman lives in Sandy Springs.