Idol Chatter

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Jesse James’ Apology: What Does it Matter?

posted by Douglas Howe

She gave an inspiring performance on screen. She won several awards including the Oscar. She praised her husband. Then a new story leaked. The alleged mistress gave an interview. The bride moved out. The husband issued a telepology. It joins the Health Care Vote (or should be it be called The Politicians’ Politics’ Vote?) as one of the lead stories in most media outlets today. Yes, this story just keeps on giving.
I don’t (at all!) take any enjoyment from the pain of others. In fact, I grieve over it. But when those in the public spotlight make their private conversations public it gives our culture a great chance to reflect on what our values really are. And as someone who sees several individuals and couples per week our private practice, I know that the issues are as current and relevant as they are complex and compelling.
Should celebrities work things out privately before they go public, or is that just unrealistic? Do the private circumstances of public figures actually speak into the lives of the millions whose issues are similar but whose identities (and life stories) are less public? Should they? And if so, what should forgiveness be based on? Contrition for the offense? Sincerity of the apology? Graciousness of the forgiver? Past track record of the forgivee? Or, should any of this be any of our business at all?
Fellow Idol Chatter blogger Kris Rasmussen posted that “one motivation behind his statement seems to be a realization that he not only needs Sandra’s forgiveness, but, as public support swells for America’s movie sweetheart, he is going to need forgiveness from her fans as well.”
I agree. Well, sort of.
For better or for worse, we live in a media age where the private affairs (no pun intended) of public figures are usually, well, public. I sometimes feel like the jury when a Tiger Woods, John Edwards or Jesse James is issuing their public apology, as if I somehow get a vote in whether or not their spouses will forgive them or not, or whether they’ll choose to stay with them or not. But this isn’t a court of law so what, exactly can I really do? I know I can root for them. Or pray for them. I know some people send public support through blogs or emails. But what else?
One thing we all can do is learn from the public story as it relates to our individual situations, which are highly, highly relevant. And to that end, I thought Jesse James’ apology was a huge step in the right direction. Sure it may have been from the telepology.com playbook for how to engineer a public apology,
He stated that the “vast majority of the allegations reported are untrue and unfounded.”
He stated that “I am truly very sorry for the grief I have caused them.”
He stated that there is “only one person to blame for this whole situation, and that is me. It’s because of my poor judgment that I deserve everything bad that is coming my way.”
He stated that the situation “has caused my wife and kids pain and embarrassment beyond comprehension and I am extremely saddened to have brought this on them. I am truly very sorry for the grief I have caused them. I hope one day they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.”


Sure, it may have been a crafted statement, but as those go it sure was the right start. If we all could start with personal responsibility regarding our imperfect actions and decisions, it wouldn’t make what we did acceptable, but would certainly give those around us a chance to at least consider moving on from it in some kind of healthy way.
I look forward to seeing what happens next for Mr. James and Ms. Bullock. I hope it ends up being a love story about forgiveness and commitment. And whatever it is that they do, I’m sure, though, that it will have more to do with what they say and do within their privacy. The rest is either public nonsense or fodder for cultural inspiration and personal growth. That’s the part that’s up to each of us.



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