Who’s Your Mama?
What do Kanye West, Serena Williams and Rep. Joe Wilson have in common? They’re all card-carrying members of the contemporary club I call, “Mama Forgot To Teach Me Some Manners”.
Likewise, what do Beyoncé, Kim Clijsters and Barack Obama share in common? You guessed it: all members of the club, “Folks Whose Classy Mothers Taught Them To Behave in Public”.
Lots of nice perks come with public life. Generally speaking these include a varying combination of money, fame and power; all fun things to have. But along with those benefits come a few responsibilities. In return we expect that you won’t behave boorishly in front of our kids and then refuse to offer an authentic apology to those whom you’ve offended. Kids look up to you and like it or not, you’re role models.
I was raised by people who emphasized manners. And when I say, “emphasized” I mean that it was a requirement in all that we did and said and there were no exceptions. There were meaningful consequences when we forgot our manners in public. We were expected to behave a certain way which included saying “please” and “thank you” at the appropriate times, and calling someone else names was taboo. When we hurt someone, we were taught to offer a heart-felt apology, which required examining and changing our own behavior. I applied that same philosophy to the rearing of my own three kids, and now do so with my four grandchildren as well.
An authentic apology has a few identifiable characteristics:
1) It occurs because the offending person understands that what they did was wrong, not because a failure to apologize will cost them, and not because someone else is requiring them to apologize.
2) The offending person states what he/she did wrong and says, “I’m sorry”. Fake apologies go something like this: “If I did such-and-such and if it offended anyone, then I’m sorry”. That’s not an apology. It’s a conditional statement that throws blame back on the person offended and denies any real acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
3) A true apology gives a clear indication of the offender’s intention not to repeat the offense. (After all, if you realize you made a mistake, why would you want to make it again?)
Now I know inappropriate public behavior is nothing new, but it certainly seems to be happening with alarming frequency lately. The more often it occurs, the more of a trend it sets, lowering the bar on what we as a society consider appropriate behavior. When we let rudeness go unchecked without consequence, we can be assured it will occur with greater frequency in the future.
You know those bumper stickers seen on the backs of trucks that read: “How’s my driving? Call (phone number)”? Maybe we ought to stick something similar on the behinds of movie stars, recording artists, professional athletes and elected officials:
I have a hunch some things would change.