Oh boy… we hit a nerve.
We were quite proud of our essay on Tuesday. It was something unique, we told ourselves, something that honored our nation’s birthday in a fresh, enlightening way… the Manward way.
And yet as we peeked in at the mailbag throughout the holiday, we saw a trend.
What we intended as a bit of a literary play on words missed its mark. And readers let us know.
“Hey bonehead – It was General George Meade who chased Lee into Pennsylvania. Grant was busy taking Vicksburg,” wrote one reader who took a cheap shot at our credibility.
We merely aimed to paint a figurative picture in the reader’s head.
We should have replaced “Lee” with “South” and “Grant” with “North.”
But we didn’t. And the final product clearly caught the ire of many a history-savvy reader.
Should we apologize? Perhaps.
Are we going to? Absolutely not.
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY
Despite what many would see as the obvious result of all this – an essay on how a “good man” is quick to issue an apology – we’re veering in another direction… because that logic is wrong.
Recent research shows that saying we’re sorry is often the wrong thing to do.
The liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote that we’re a nation that suffers from an “epidemic of infallibility.”
He aimed his jabs at the president and so many in-the-news figures who make obvious mistakes and yet refuse to admit they’re wrong or, to our point, apologize.
It’s a cultural flaw, he says.
A good man, so many folks these days want to argue, is a man who openly discusses his flaws and falls on his sword every chance he gets.
But we say that makes for a man with bloody shoes… and a whole lot of needless holes in his body.
STAY STRONG AND MOVE ON
In fact, research from scholars in Australia shows an attitude of liberal apologies leads to trouble.
It tells us that if we’d apologize a whole lot less… we’d be in a whole lot better shape.
Get this. University of Queensland Professor Tyler Okimoto found that folks who refuse to show their remorse have a greater sense of self-esteem and integrity and feel better overall.
It’s counterintuitive to today’s feel-good literature.
But keep reading… it makes sense.
Okimoto showed that when we apologize to a person, we give them a sense of power over us. We don’t just fall on our sword… We hand it to the so-called victim, giving them the power to do what they will.
It’s a deadly recipe for our relationships.
A morally fulfilled victim may take the sword and put it back in its sheath.
But a morally “empty” victim will be eager to slice and dice.
It’s why the president – any president, not just Donald Trump – often refuses to admit guilt. The morally empty media would hack him to pieces.
This idea is so powerful, in fact, that folks are actively working to make apologies part of the criminal justice system. Not only would forcing a guilty party to apologize to their victims act as a stiff punishment, but it would also serve as a form of restitution for the victim.
It’s why so many arguments in the home start with one party simply saying, “I just want you to apologize.”
It sounds innocent – just tell me you were wrong and we’ll move on.
But what that person is really saying is “Just give me the power and let me hold it over you. I’ll feel better about myself and make you feel like the dog you are.”
DRAW THE LINE
What’s perhaps the craziest piece of Okimoto’s research is that he found it’s not merely the act of not apologizing that’s important… it’s the act of refusing to apologize.
In his study, he showed that simply ignoring the idea of an apology had very little effect, but overtly digging in and rejecting the notion of an apology stirred strong and often long-lasting positive internal emotions.
It’s powerful stuff.
It shows the immense complexity – and fragility – of our Connections with those around us.
We live in a society where men are supposed to be vulnerable and eager to admit their mistakes.
The latest research, though, shows that may not always be healthy.
We won’t wait for an apology.
We get it.