I have had to give public apologies in my life before. It is not an easy thing to do, not because of lack of contrition, but because of personal embarrassment for the mistake and the public scrutiny that follows. People, in this cynical age, try to analyze your sincerity from afar and, thanks to the Internet, offer instant commentary about your overall character. We are a society that is quick to harshly judge someone.
Public apologies have also become a PR event as well, with people specializing in how to make them even. Lawyers, public relations consultants, family members are all involved in a process that is really suppose to come from the heart. That gives the appearance of being a contrived statement and may take away from the impact the apologizer intends to really show, in that they are sorry for what was said or done.
However, unfortunately, it is needed in this instant information age. Case in point, the poor quarterback from Ohio State who had to offer an apology to those he may have offended by wearing the name "Vick" on his eye black tape. Terrelle Pryor stumbled through that moment as awkwardly as anyone could. Pryor was being sincere as he could be, but he was not prepared for the controversy and with his answers created more of a stir.
With the recent flurry of apologetic statements released these last couple of weeks by public figures, it would seem that the general public is becoming numb to boorish behavior and the public show that follows. However, I believe, as a Christian, that an apology should be taken at its face value, and that true contrition will be shown as time goes on. If the person who apologizes for example continues to do things that offend, on a consistent basis, then maybe their sincerity should be questioned.
Yet, the flip side of this is that there are people who do things deliberately to offend and show no signs of contrition. They lie about a person's character and show no remorse. They misrepresent facts and ignore requests to recant their statements. Some of them even get compensated handsomely for these actions. This rewarding of bad behavior, especially in the name of free speech, also diminishes the value of apologies. If people are defiant in all their egregious actions, then those who do try to be accountable are as deemed as being vulnerable and weak, fearing something to lose rather than just being good citizens in this world who admit that they made a mistake.
As human beings, we are not perfect. We will make mistakes. To paraphrase the Rev. Jesse Jackson, we are not perfect servants, we are public servants. It is our duty to apologize when we have offended or hurt someone. It is also our divine obligation to forgive, for we all serve a God that gives us second chances. Let us accept apologies from those that have offended or hurt us and then leave the judgement to a higher power than ourselves.