Some apologies are best left unsaid
“OK, it’s all my fault.” It’s a common refrain repeated by people who get into fights with their spouses. But such an apology often inspires more anger instead of ending the fight.
Simply making a broad apology can come across as superficial and insincere.
“Tell me specifically what you have done wrong” is a common retort.
This debate is not limited to romantic relationships. Recently, American viewers felt frustrated when they saw Oprah Winfrey’s interview with cyclist Lance Armstrong. Armstrong had long been a symbol of human triumph by overcoming cancer and winning seven consecutive Tour de France races.
Last fall, the United States Anti-Doping Agency released a report on his alleged offenses. He has become the worst crook in the history of sports, and he has been stripped of all his glorious titles. So his interview drew great attention.
However, viewers were disappointed by the two-part interview that aired over two days. The interview was not sincere enough for betrayed fans who gave love and respect to the false hero.
I watched the interview on a Korean channel with subtitles, and the viewers’ reactions were understandable. Armstrong acknowledged his use of performance-enhancing drugs for the first time. However, he did not explain how these illegal activities were carried out or who played which role in detail. He failed to leave the impression that he regrets his offenses.
Also, he did not give a sufficient apology to those who have been hurt by his actions. His interview was far less aggressive compared to his initial defense against allegations. He had harshly attacked teammates and their families who had disclosed his doping. Immediately after winning the seventh Tour de France, he said, “I am sorry you don’t believe in miracles.”
In the interview, he said that he did not feel guilty or scared when he repeatedly committed doping offenses.
When asked if he had known it was wrong and that he was cheating, he responded that he did not and he that not feeling guilty was “even scarier” in retrospect. At that moment, the athlete and icon looked like a little child.
When children make mistakes, they cry not because they feel guilty but because adults grow angry at them. But by repeating the process of getting disciplined as a result of wrongdoings, they learn social morals.
Lance Armstrong famously said, “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.”
Now, his pain seems to last longer. It is the tragedy of a grown man who has begun to realize his faults too late in life.
*The author is a culture and sports news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoo-nam