Moral Apologies & Forgiveness

This week the Alliance wrapped up spring programming with a Mind Candy Dialogue dedicated to the discussion of moral indiscretions, apologies, and forgiveness. An impressive amount of moral courage was demonstrated by panelists and audience members alike as they shared their own indiscretions and attempts to make amends, including these relatable examples:

  • Attending an underage drinking party as a young person, breaking not only the law but also commitments to family and teammates

  • Texting while driving

  • Losing one’s cool with an opposing lawyer, causing feelings of shame and regret

  • Vandalizing passing cars as a child and having no avenue for apology

  • Losing temper with someone imagined to be taking advantage—and generalizing that anger to the person’s entire profession

While some things might be unforgivable, panelists agreed that seeking forgiveness—from others as well as from oneself—is a worthwhile pursuit. Such pursuit is likely to result in personal growth or change, but we should recognize that that journey of change isn’t the same for everyone for myriad reasons, including a history of adverse experiences.

Once we’ve decided to seek forgiveness and apologize for our misdeeds, what is the best way to do so? What makes a moral apology? The panelists and audience generated a helpful list:

  • Own/name the indiscretion. Without naming it, it’s impossible to accept responsibility and ultimately be held accountable—however that accountability might look.

  • Show genuine remorse and acknowledge the impact of the indiscretion. Though you can’t possibly share the impacted party’s exact feelings of having been wronged, being remorseful demonstrates empathy.

  • Take action and commit to real change. Without acting to right the wrong, an apology rings hollow.

  • Recognize that no one has to accept your apology, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps toward restorative justice.

Taking the step to apologize might be a difficult one but is also necessary for repairing broken trust.

Check out materials from the event and be sure to register for the Summer Ethics Luncheon!