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(Inspired by Wall Street Journal reporter Jason Gay’s title, “Maybe We All Need Rehab,” Feb. 20, I just took the “maybe” out.) All of us, including me, are guilty of watching all manner of public apologies; worse yet, we compulsively lap up the knee-jerk “analysis” that have, by now, become all too routine.
However, there is a real lesson to be learned from Wood’s apology and it begins with this question: What is the nature of a true apology?
First, take personal responsibility for your actions.
Woods: I want to say to each of you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior I engaged in…
I am also aware of the pain my behavior has caused to those of you in this room. I have let you down, and I have let down my fans. For many of you, especially my friends, my behavior has been a personal disappointment. To those of you who work for me, I have let you down personally and professionally. My behavior has caused considerable worry to my business partners.
I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself… I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled.
I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.
I know I have bitterly disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I could have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry.
Be specific about corrective actions.
In therapy I’ve learned the importance of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me, my marriage and my children.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’ve done. My failures have made me look at myself in a way I never wanted to before. It’s now up to me to make amends, and that starts by never repeating the mistakes I’ve made. It’s up to me to start living a life of integrity.
…my real apology… will not come in the form of words; it will come from my behavior over time…
From a personal standpoint, there’s another aspect to an apology. If the offender expresses true repentance, the next step comes in forgiveness from the offended. This is not always easy, particularly when there is a great deal of emotional pain involved. But pardoning can reveal the compassionate side of our character.