Service of Forgiveness

June 10th, 2010

Categories: Audacity, Forgiveness, Government, Lies

I have a hard time forgiving people who lie to me–although I’ve done so.

Public figures are another thing again. With them, it’s not about my forgiveness but about my actions: My vote or support in some other way, by buying their book or newspaper, watching their movie or keeping on the channel when they step up to the plate–or not. Those who are holier than thou and turn out to be bigger sinners than anyone else, Eliot Spitzer or John Edwards, for example, get my goat most of all. It’s too soon to tell how the public will treat them in future. Neither is old enough to pack it in.

The Helen Thomas resignation, after she told the Jews to go home, got me thinking of forgiveness. She apologized immediately. Didn’t matter: Out! Maybe her bosses wanted an excuse to get rid of her for years and what she said was unforgivable.

Yet there doesn’t seem to be any consistency with the public’s loyalty or a company’s perception of what public opinion will tolerate and therefore how it will affect their bottom line.

A real estate agent told us the name of the person who owned a house we’d always admired. Turned out it was one of the people convicted of securities fraud in the 1990s; a smaller fish than Michael Milken, though nonetheless a swimmer in that pond. Her reaction: “We welcome him to our community because he paid his debt to society.” Good for her; don’t know about me.

Baseball player and manager Pete Rose bet on games he was involved in and it seems will never again be considered for the Hall of Fame nor can he go near the game while George Steinbrenner confessed to committing several felonies and was allowed to keep the Yankees.

Americans have voted for politicians convicted of drug charges while they previously held office-and they won a subsequent election. I can think of one caught red-handed for non payment of taxes yet he won as well.

Why do you think the public forgives some people and not others? Does a public apology matter?

9 Responses to “Service of Forgiveness”

  1. Judy Said:

    Apologies help, but they don’t always come soon enough, and the
    lawyers for many companies insist that their execs not apologize
    because it will make them more liable later.

    BP has done a horrible job with their CEO (can you imagine being one of their PR people?).

    On the other hand, Helen Thomas got the shaft, although after all
    those years in the media, she should have known that media folk have
    no right to an opinion. It goes with the job. Unfair, yes, but
    policy at most media outlets.

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    Forgiveness is a private matter. I don’t see it is my place, or that of the public, to forgive or not forgive Spitzer, Edwards, Thomas or any other “sinner” who came down the pike then, now or in the future. I wish to heaven all this never ending and undoubtedly insincere apologizing would stop…..NOW! Spitzer and Edwards must deal with their friends and families, certainly not “moi!” Should I care whether they have girlfriends or patronize the local friendly cat house? For all I know, such activity has emotional benefits which enhance job performance. Because of society’s overblown sense of righteousness, New York lost a good governor and the electorate in that state was disenfranchised. The Thomas remarks shocked and offended many people, but she did nothing wrong. She stated an opinion, arguably vicious, controversial and mean spirited, but she has a right to that point of view and should have equal right to make it public if she chooses. She comes from a Lebanese background, and can’t be expected to make pro Zionist remarks. Someone of stature had better start loudly defending free speech before it vanishes altogether, and judging from the anti-Thomas outcry and reportedly forced resignation, it looks as if it’s nearly out the door.

    Forgiveness on a personal level is tricky. I find it easiest to neither forgive nor not forgive, which affords greater options. If a given affront is accidental and not meant, there is nothing to forgive. Otherwise, why bother with an idiot or a grinch? Who wants to rub shoulders with garbage?

  3. Frank Paine Said:

    I’ve never understood this either. The forgiving real estate agent mentioned of course had some vested interest (perhaps) in a prospective buyer of his or her product. I can’t forgive it, but I can understand it. But then there’s a certain Secretary of the Treasury who didn’t pay his taxes, but he’s still SecTreas. And nobody seems to care. It’s very inconsistent. We can go on and on. Michael Millken, whose crime in my mind was less that he may have committed securities fraud than that he ran a corrupt organization–one that he made corrupt–still has lots of friends. A former Attorney General of the State of NY who not only went with expensive prostitutes (do you think he used protection?)–oh, and of course Tiger did this too–but who technically was probably in violation of the anti-money laundering laws (laws that he HAD to be very well aware of) as he tried to hide the flow of money to his paramours—where is he? At worst, he is not paying full price for his crimes…You see, I AM going on and on…

    I bet the inverse side of this is true, too. What I mean is, I bet we can all think of good, upstanding people whose cleanliness is used against them. I think of Bill Bradley, although he may not be a good example, but if he had been willing to accept the kinds of favors routinely accepted by his opponents, might well be the President of the U.S. today. Too bad–I wish we had him…

    Where, oh where, is the anger? Enough said

  4. Thomas Stier Said:

    Forgiveness is indeed personal. We all have our own criteria for dispensing or withholding it. However, the perceived sincerity of the offender is often sufficient to warrant the good-old, American second chance. This is the land of the “Comeback Kid.” Personally, I find forgiveness to be liberating. Why hold onto petty grudges that don’t seem to change anything? Why be slow to forgive when there is always the chance I may need someone’s gracious forgiveness in the future? If I consciously live in the moment and am less judgemental in the little things, I may have less opportunity to be offended or offensive; decreasing my need to either forgive or be forgiven.

  5. Simon Carr Said:

    I am replete with opinions to such an extent that I don’t even know where to start!

    As to Steinbrenner, I have been a Yankee hater since 1943 when my Washington Senators came in second to them for the last time in the history of the American League. That colors my thinking, but Steinbrenner has always represented to me the essence of what is wrong in this country – money will get you anywhere and buy you anything. Ethics are irrelevant. He is an admitted felon who has, thanks to the best public opinion manipulators in the business, been able to gloss over his vast corrupt business practices now erased from websites like Wikipedia and search engines like Google. His “opinion” team was so good that, had he wanted to be, he probably could have been elected President. But then felons are not supposed to be elected president, not that that would count for much to a good manipulator.

    As to Spitzer, he was born a bum, was a bum in public office, and remains a bum in disgrace. Again money counted. His riches were used to cover over his utter amorality and incompetence.

    As to Helen Thomas, she spoke honestly, a fault of old age — I know, I am old. Unfortunately, in our country, speaking the truth is a “no, no.” It doesn’t matter if you are in sympathy with her views as to the issues about which she spoke, or in sympathy with the Israelis’ actions to defend their country. There will be no settlement to what used to be called, “The Palestine Question,” in my grandchildren’s, or great, grandchildren’s, lifetimes. The Jews are fighting for their very survival. Any action they take, without limitation, including using their atom bombs, is acceptable to me for them to defend their right to survive.

    As to having felons as neighbors, I know that by law I must accept their presence, but in practice, when I see the ones where I live, I pretend they do not exist. However, despite having known men such as the one you describe, I cut them when I pass them. Why? Because, as the president of one of the banks from which the one I know stole thirteen million dollars said, “Couldn’t he have gone to Hollywood to live?”

    As to Tiger, his game is off, and I am content.

    As to Bill Bradley, I never saw him play and never voted for him, but at least he didn’t, as far as I know, plagiarize like one of his most successful peers!

    To sum it up, I guess I’m not one for accepting apologies, or for forgiving “high crimes and misdemeanors” by arrogant, powerful men and women.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    One of my colleagues asked me whether or not I would accept to work on the BP PR team. He was taking a poll on a website that asked that question. I said I would lean towards “no,” even though I would welcome the business, because I fear that there are too many skeletons in their closet—or pipelines–and facts are facts. I would want to divulge them immediately because when they come out–which they should have on the first day–the reaction will be worse than being dragged out inch by inch over a long period.

    And unfortunately, with the lawsuits Judy refers to looming around every corner, instead of being able to reach out to good Samaritan companies that might help, as the crisis becomes increasingly horrendous and out of control, my guess is that BP can’t and others wouldn’t help for fear of being faulted and charged with wrongdoing along the way.

    Lucrezia brings up a critical point: Free speech. But Judy’s point, that as a reporter Helen Thomas loses the option of voicing her opinions because she dilutes her credibility when she covers topics about which she has shown a vivid slant, eradicates her ability to exercise her right.

    I have always had trouble with the “business is business” approach that Frank alludes to, but it is real. I have refused to buy stock in companies that sell products I don’t want to support and have resigned clients when they do not conduct business on the up and up–and losing the income was no easy matter. So while I recognize it, I won’t play ball and don’t forgive others who do.

    Frank makes an interesting point about the goody-goody syndrome that injures the image of some in the public eye. It connected my mind to Lucrezia’s reference to NY Governor Patterson, whom the press has painted in such a negative way that he doesn’t deserve–which I’ve addressed on this blog.

    It’s hard to argue with Thomas’ point of view. I wish I could be as he describes. Even though Thomas argues for immediate forgiveness, time helps if I am personally injured and once I am over a sting, I forget it eventually. But if you’ve lost my trust, and I tend to bend over backwards with excuses as to why people do this or that to me so it can take a long, long time, I am forever wary and in one case in particular, unforgiving.

    Simon Carr refers to old age for loosening lips. I know people of all ages who, as Jackie Gleason used to say on the Honeymooners, have BIG MOUTHS and use them without first thinking about what they are saying and to whom and how what they say will make the listener feel. They are the Mr. or Mrs. Malaprop souls in our lives and come in all sizes and shapes and, as I already wrote, ages.

    Simon also points to the importance of money in helping people forget wrongdoing in this country and he’s right. His other point about the passion that religion brings to a bargaining table is unequal to anything else I can think of–even World Cup soccer, American football, baseball, NASCAR or wrestling fans who go nutsy crazy rooting for their teams. Passion with a dose of “I am right and there is only one right way, mine” eliminate the possibility of forgiveness and handshakes.

  7. Ann L Said:

    The CEO of BP wants the mess cleaned up so he can have his life back. Hmmm, doesn’t sound too engaged to me. Excuse me, it is a major major major event and your company is responsible for it…you want your life back…..give me a break. It should be taken from him…forever…as he has taken the earth from us !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Can I forgive him? Some will. But, then some will not. I feel for him. He is so not connected to the real world. Pity, perhaps. Yes, it is pity not forgiveness I feel. I think some of the people you referenced are due pity more than forgiveness…how pathetic, greedy, stupid and self interested….Phew……

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Ann L,

    You may have hit on the subject of a future post: Service of Pity [and how it relates to forgiveness.] Hmmmm.

    Maybe I do pity the greedy. There’s so much more to life than being the richest person in the cemetery.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    I was surprised to discover Spitzer was born a bum, among other devastating remarks issued towards others by Mr. Carr. While I am not enamored of this person, or others he attacks, I find such evaluations unjust and extreme. As to Helen Thomas, it is possible she was brought up to speak the truth as are many of us, both young and old. We might be ancient, but Truth is not about to die of old age. I don’t know what brought on this invective, and I hope Monsieur felt better the next day.

    As for the BP incident, I don’t see forgiveness as an issue. Let’s stop the oil damage, and following that get the country out of the oil business. Begging for forgiveness and getting or not getting it won’t help the aggrieved. Assuming the oil company will move heaven and earth to clear up this mess and to fully compensate the thousands of victims whose livelihoods have been compromised or lost will be more productive than getting down on ones knees. I haven’t the faintest idea as to whether or not the CEO wants to get on with his life or not – that’s not the point. What is, and what many conveniently forget, is the tampering with nature. She does not forgive easily, regardless of intent. Hopefully those Palinesque “Drill baby drill” folks will take heed before worse happens.

    I don’t know about being the richest person in the cemetery, but would not mind being the richest above ground!

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