Seven Words to Make Your Apology a Success!

After weeks of claiming that his Twitter account had been hacked, Rep. Anthony Weiner finally came out on Monday night and admitted the obvious. It was tearful press conference, filled with all the overused expressions we have to come to expect from any public apology.

There was one phrase, however, that stood above them all. Expressed frequently throughout Rep. Weiner’s address, it is a phrase that has supported the efforts of all the great apology artists throughout the years.

“I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Every apology artist knows that this is the key to success. It is the medium by which the confession is perfected, the foundation on which he builds his creation. No modern apology would be complete without it.

These seven words, carefully forged in the fires of public shaming, have been used to ensure the horrified public that despite the most unscrupulous behavior, Exhibit A is still somehow, deep down inside, a figure worthy of respect.

As it is used today, this phrase is really an empty statement. What does it mean to take responsibility for one’s actions, and when was the last time we saw a public figure actually do this?

Make no mistake, it is never easy to come forward with a public confession, especially when overwhelming evidence is stacked against you. It takes courage to wait for the very last moment to admit wrongdoing.

Taking responsibility for one’s actions means submitting to the consequences, no matter how painful or prolonged they might be, and taking meaningful steps to change one’s behavior. It starts with admitting mistakes, but it never ends there.

This requires humility. No genuine apology is complete without it. Unfortunately, our culture has little to say about this essential virtue, and thus we are left with a society that largely prefers to minimize damage rather than truly take responsibility for misdeeds.

Who knows, maybe Rep. Weiner will break the mold. Asking Bill Clinton for advice, however, is most definitely heading in the wrong direction. This we can say with certitude.

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