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Why do people want apologies from bad people anyway?

Aug 23, 2013, 11:06 AM EDT

Ryan Braun AP

Some more thoughts about Ryan Braun‘s apology and the disappointed reactions thereto:

The weirdest thing about the reactions from the “Braun’s apology wasn’t good enough” camp is that, generally speaking, they come from people who are usually totally comfortable making stark character judgments. The “this guy is bad and evil and a cheater and a liar, and that’s what defines him” sort of stuff. Which, fine, everyone is allowed their opinion.

But if you are the sort of person to make those sorts of judgments why, exactly, do you want an apology or expect anything from one?  Why do you expect the subject in question — here Braun — to suddenly cast off the traits you are so certain he has and come clean and repent in convincing fashion? Doesn’t the lack of an apology or remorse better fit your assessment of his character? You should not be surprised at all. Indeed, if you are right about the person in question, you shouldn’t expect one. Or at least one that is actually intended to show the remorse and contrition you are so certain he lacks to begin with.

Which makes me wonder what the point of this apology judging really is.  I see two possibilities. Maybe there are more, but two stick out to me:

1. Writers like stories to actually be stories with beginnings, middles and ends. And those ends are best if they are happy endings in which the bad guy is taught a lesson and maybe a group hug is had. It makes for a satisfying narrative. The dissatisfaction at the apology is not that it reveals Braun to be a bad guy — they’re already convinced of that — it’s that this jerk Braun is depriving us of a happy ending in which the good guys win and the bad guys are shown the error of their ways;

2. People like their confirmation-bias. It’s satisfying. And rather than just note that the p.r.-driven apology was a predictable exercise in p.r., the layer of dissatisfaction at the apology is ladled on because it scratches the itch we have for our previous opinions to be validated.

I believe that bad people exist. I think that, generally speaking, Ryan Braun has shown himself to be a bad guy. He lies. He cheats. He throws friends and colleagues under the bus. Pretty low rent. Given that, I’m not sure why we should expect any statement he makes to show genuine public contrition and I’m not sure why he’s owed any added criticism for failing to live up to that unrealistic expectation. As I’ve said before, I’d hope he offers personal apologies to people he directly wronged but I kinda don’t give a flip how he executes his public relations game and don’t think that and that alone can or should change the public’s opinion of him. We are what we do, not what we say.

But even if he fails to live up to that low standard, let’s stop acting surprised that there are bad people in the world who get away with stuff sometimes or who are, in the view of many, punished more lightly than they should be.

 

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