Posted on 15 July 2011.
A public apology can make or break public sentiments towards well known public figures, be they philandering spouses caught with their pants down, corrupt officials caught with their hands in the cookie jar, or like in recent news… sneaky little clerics asking for special gifts from the President.
An apology can elicit sympathy… or expose you for the creepy little rat that you are. Thus, scripting the perfect apology letter has become something of an art-form. In typical pinoy fashion, the best technique is to go for all-out drama. Take a cue from old-school Nora Aunor movies… shed a few melodramatic crocodile tears and utter the immortal phrase “kung kasalanan ang magmahal, then… I… AM… GUILTY.”
- [Image from TreseKomix.blogspot.com / get your copy now!]
So with a little bit of theatrical sleight-of-hand, you have turned from perpetrator to martyr, transforming actual crime into a “crime of passion”. Suddenly, the only thing you’re guilty of is loving too much or helping too much. Bravo! The crowd applauses and you are guaranteed a FAMAS award for best dramatic performance.
So now you know the power of a good apology. So to help all you aspiring apologists out there caught red-handed and eager to turn the tides of public sympathy, here’s the:
TOP 10 LIST – TIPS ON WRITING THE PERFECT “NON-APOLOGY” APOLOGY LETTER
- Apologize about everything except the crime you’re actually charged with. This is an apology letter, not a confession. Knowing the difference means this could never be used as court evidence as an admission of guilt. So what do you actually apologize about? That’s where Tip#2 comes in…
- Apologize profusely for all the “sorrow” this incident has caused the general public. (even though it’s not actually sorrow the general public feels, its DISGUST). Apologize to your constituents, family and loved ones too. (again, even if its not sorrow they’re actually feeling, its actually closer to SHAME). Express your regret over the whole matter but be vague on exactly what it is you regret (people don’t want to hear that you regret getting caught).
- Garner sympathy by mentioning how much the incident has affected you personally. Recount the sleepless nights, loss of appetite, and stress-induced wrinkles it has caused you. Make it look like you are hurting more from your crimes that even the victims themselves.
- Emphasize how deeply spiritual and religious you are. Invoke the name of God frequently (don’t worry, this doesn’t count as taking the Lord’s name in vain because it’s for a good cause). Make sure you mention over and over again how much you prayed for guidance. Quote a few bible passages with themes on forgiveness and redemption.
- Justify any previous attempts at cover-ups and intentional misdirection as unfortunate side effects of your clumsy attempts to protect your loved ones or those close to you from any collateral damage. It’s totally a SELFLESS act.
- Explain to people how difficult and stressful your job is, causing you to have the occasional lapse in judgment. You have so many balls to juggle that you are sometimes put into compromising situations. Your work is the most horrible, thankless job in the world and your critics don’t understand how terribly pressured you are. Those ungrateful wretches should be thankful that you’re even sticking around.
- Remind everyone of the virtue of forgiveness. Sprinkle words like “repentance“ and “atonement” liberally. While on the subject of penance, don’t elaborate on exactly how you plan to do it. Leave it to people’s imaginations (or better yet, their short attention span). Never ever bring up the issue of punishment. Instead, segue straight into the future, where you hope to “build a brighter future for everyone.”
- Invoke justice and due process. Justice is not about you being punished for your crimes, it’s about you being protected from public scrutiny until proven guilty beyond any shadow of doubt. Due process is all about being completely innocent until completely proven guilty. Until then, you have complete immunity from criticism. If someone from the media or even the public condemns you for your actions, reprimand them for jumping the gun.
- Thank the people for all their love, understanding, and support. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t actually any… just thank them. That way, they’ll look like heartless bastards if they don’t actually show any sympathy towards you after you’ve profusely thanked them in advance.
- Turn this into a “lesson” for everyone. It’s not about you or the shameless crimes you’ve committed, it’s about the wisdom gleaned from all this. This is all merely a test from God. Sometimes, it’s tough being the instrument of God’s teachings. But with everyone’s unconditional support, we all learn a valuable life lesson today.
So hopefully after you’ve followed all these tips, you can come up with your very own soul-stirring, heart-wrenching “non-apology” apology letter guaranteed to evoke sympathy from even your most cynical critics. If you’ve done it correctly, you’ll soon be swimming in high praise from everyone for your “humility” and “contrite heart“. Good luck crawling your way out of whatever mess you got yourself into.
Need a few good examples of a good “non-apology” apology letter? Take a cue from the Catholic Bishop’s conference letter, “A Time of Pain, A Time of Grace”.
Our Dear People of God,
Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the past two weeks. Some members of the Church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do not. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow. We your pastors are one with you. As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.
We are saddened that many of you, especially the youth, the poor, our Basic Ecclesial Communities, have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.
As we express our sadness, we also ask you to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy. Let us seek the truth always in charity.
We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their action and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional. We assure you that their action was done without malice. Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them. They have also expressed their readiness to do everything that is necessary to heal this wound so that we can all move forward in hope.
We also assure you, our beloved people, that we shall re-examine the manner of our collaboration with government agencies for purposes of helping the poor, making sure that pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed. We shall examine our values in the light of our vocation to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We commit ourselves to the long journey of personal and social transformation required of all disciples of the Lord. We plead with you to walk with us in this path of constant renewal.
We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you. The words of the psalmist come to our mind: “My sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn” (Ps.51). As the same Psalmist addresses the Lord, we take his words as our own to encourage and challenge us: “Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.”
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+NEREO P. ODCHIMAR, D.D.
Bishop of Tandag
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
July 11, 2011
Notice the deft use of techniques employed in Bishop Odchimar’s “apology”… it says a lot without… well, without saying anything at all. Even after reading it for the nth time, you’re still not sure what he’s sorry for… but somehow you feel sorry for him now. Now that is the mark of a truly well-written non-apology apology letter.
Now compare it with the apology letter Bill Clinton wrote during the Monica Lewinski sex scandal. Who did a better job at non-apologizing? :
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House and to this day to which Hillary and the vice president and I look forward so much every year.
This is always an important day for our country, for the reasons that the vice president said. It is an unusual and, I think, unusually important day today. I may not be quite as easy with my words today as I have been in years past,
and I was up rather late last night thinking about and praying about what I ought to say today. And rather unusual for me, I actually tried to write it down. So if you will forgive me, I will do my best to say what it is I want to say to you – and I may have to take my glasses out to read my own writing.
First, I want to say to all of you that, as you might imagine, I have been on quite a journey these last few weeks to get to the end of this, to the rock bottom truth of where I am and where we all are.
I agree with those who have said that in my first statement after I testified I was not contrite enough. I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.
It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.
But I believe that to be forgiven, more than sorrow is required – at least two more things. First, genuine repentance – a determination to change and to repair breaches of my own making. I have repented. Second, what my bible calls a ”broken spirit”; an understanding that I must have God’s help to be the person that I want to be; a willingness to give the very forgiveness I seek; a renunciation of the pride and the anger which cloud judgment, lead people to excuse and compare and to blame and complain.
Now, what does all this mean for me and for us? First, I will instruct my lawyers to mount a vigorous defense, using all available appropriate arguments. But legal language must not obscure the fact that I have done wrong. Second, I will continue on the path of repentance, seeking pastoral support and that of other caring people so that they can hold me accountable for my own commitment.
Third, I will intensify my efforts to lead our country and the world toward peace and freedom, prosperity and harmony, in the hope that with a broken spirit and a still strong heart I can be used for greater good, for we have many blessings and many challenges and so much work to do.
In this, I ask for your prayers and for your help in healing our nation. And though I cannot move beyond or forget this – indeed, I must always keep it as a caution light in my life – it is very important that our nation move forward.
I am very grateful for the many, many people – clergy and ordinary citizens alike – who have written me with wise counsel. I am profoundly grateful for the support of so many Americans who somehow through it all seem to still know that I care about them a great deal, that I care about their problems and their dreams. I am grateful for those who have stood by me and who say that in this case and many others, the bounds of privacy have been excessively and unwisely invaded. That may be. Nevertheless, in this case, it may be a blessing, because I still sinned. And if my repentance is genuine and sustained, and if I can maintain both a broken spirit and a strong heart, then good can come of this for our country as well as for me and my family. (Applause)
The children of this country can learn in a profound way that integrity is important and selfishness is wrong, but God can change us and make us strong at the broken places. I want to embody those lessons for the children of this country – for that little boy in Florida who came up to me and said that he wanted to grow up and be President and to be just like me. I want the parents of all the children in America to be able to say that to their children.
A couple of days ago when I was in Florida a Jewish friend of mine gave me this liturgy book called ”Gates of Repentance.” And there was this incredible passage from the Yom Kippur liturgy. I would like to read it to you:
”Now is the time for turning. The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red to orange. The birds are beginning to turn and are heading once more toward the south. The animals are beginning to turn to storing their food for the winter. For leaves, birds and animals, turning comes instinctively. But for us, turning does not come so easily. It takes an act of will for us to make a turn. It means breaking old habits. It means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means losing face. It means starting all over again. And this is always painful. It means saying I am sorry. It means recognizing that we have the ability to change. These things are terribly hard to do. But unless we turn, we will be trapped forever in yesterday’s ways. Lord help us to turn, from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back toward you. Revive our lives as at the beginning, and turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life.”
I thank my friend for that. I thank you for being here. I ask you to share my prayer that God will search me and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any hurtfulness in me, and lead me toward the life everlasting. I ask that God give me a clean heart, let me walk by faith and not sight.
I ask once again to be able to love my neighbor – all my neighbors – as my self, to be an instrument of God’s peace; to let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart and, in the end, the work of my hands, be pleasing. This is what I wanted to say to you today.
Thank you. God bless you.
President Bill Clinton – September 11, 1998
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