When I was starting out, I landed a job in an after school program helping kids out, keeping an eye on them, teaching a bit, and generally having a lot of laughs. Which is good, 'cause the pay stunk. We used to make extra snacks for the kids, in the hopes there would be leftovers and we'd have something for dinner.
At one of our requisite trainings on dealing with kids and conflict, the director of the program mentioned she didn't want us to ask the kids to say 'sorry' if they hurt another child's feelings. At the time, I thought she was wildly out of touch, a do-gooder, a liberal. But her point was simple and straightforward. If a kid just says sorry, what really have they done to fix their error? They had to address the problem they caused directly. Actions, not words.
Years later, I have come to believe she was -- is -- absolutely right. The word 'sorry' is a cheap out, junk food, a distraction. Too many people -- famous or not -- seem to think saying you are sorry means anything. On the famous side, take Manny Ramirez as an example. Suspended for 50 games for using juice, he was expected to say sorry to his teammates. Not even to the fans, mind you, not that it would matter. He makes millions of millions, screws his team, and his teammates are supposed to listen to an apology? Oh, sure, he's gonna cough up 7 million while he sits by the pool, but when he comes back, he'll start collecting the 20+ million owed to him. If he were sorry, he'd go to every game and take tickets at the turnstile, maybe lug some popcorn or beers to the fans (...and pay for it, too), and take turns washing the team's jockstraps. Maybe he is sorry, but what I'd like is to see him do something to fix the mess he caused.
It's not the rich and shameless that worry me, though. It's us regular folks. My kids, as an example. Our daughter, bless her kind soul, leaves her junk all over the house. When I'm tripping all over it, the first thing out of her mouth is "I'm sorry, Dad." I'm not interested in how she feels about me tripping or disrespecting the rest of the family, but I'm very interested in her picking her stuff up. It's simple, really. Don't say 'sorry' because it doesn't do a whole lot. Instead, I'm trying to teach her to pick up before it is a problem, and when she forgets, I'm really hoping she'll start saying "I'll get it picked up now."
To be honest, I'm fighting a losing battle. But I love long odds, so I'll keep chipping away. The next time my daughter leaves her cleats in the kitchen and I call her out on it, I'd be perfectly happy if she just spoke the truth. "Dad, I'm not sorry. My feet were hot and I took off my shoes immediately upon entering the house. Then I saw the puppy and forgot all about the shoes. My feet feel better and, boy, the puppy really is cute." Oh, if she then puts her cleats away, that would be cool, too.