Why Donald Trump Should Not Apologize

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Everybody was appalled at Donald Trump’s reaction to Fox News’ journalist Megyn Kelly as she did her job: posing hard questions that draw out a candidate’s real positions. When his peeved resentment grew into an all-night Twitter vigil, like a snubbed Middle-Schooler he trolled around, or paid an aid to troll around, looking for tweets agreeing with him that he could re-tweet and offering his own anger and spin on top of it all. Presidential material… hmmm. Things then got worse with his infamous remarks on CNN insinutating Ms. Kelly’s incisive questioning originated not from her legal training and intellect, but from PMS. Now he’s doubled down on it all, claiming he won’t apologize since he’s done nothing wrong.

Now everyone is doing what America does: demanding an apology. An apology! Really? That’s it? A guy tells a woman, on TV, that she’d look better on her knees, and we want… an apology? This whole “He ought to apologize” thing has swept America. We’re like parents lecturing a child, “Say you’re sorry!”

I don’t think Donald Trump should apologize, and here’s why.

First of all, in normal human interaction, an apology is called for when we act or speak out of character. Maybe we’re tired. Maybe we’re stressed. Maybe we’re physically sick, emotionally drained. We’re off our medications. Sleep deprived. Hungry. Whatever. We’re not ourselves. And then the combination of pressures comes to a head in some action or word that rears up from some part of our fallen human nature that we have spent a life-time striving to control, sanctify, civilize. But in a rare, vulnerable moment, a smelly vapor of old thought and life patterns rise up from our raw fallen humanity and before we know it, we’re humiliated. We’ve been far less than our best, far less than we usually are.

The natural response, especially when we realize we’ve harmed others, is to grieve. We feel remorse for having fallen below sincerely held standards we’ve invested a lifetime of effort in establishing for ourselves. We grieve the harm we have done to others. We grieve the shock and embarrassment we’ve caused our family, friends, and colleagues. So our “apology” is not just a social maneuver to “get past” the incident. The apology is the tip of an iceberg of grieved, gritty determination to do all we can to mend the hurt we’ve caused, resume our former path toward goodness and reassure others about our basic character and commitments.

Especially when we want to be president.

So an apology involves stating very clearly, with no excuses or explanations, what we have done wrong. Own the deed, naming it precisely, truthfully, no hedging. In a true apology, we also own the harm we’ve done. We validate and even empathize with the anger and distrust others feel as a result of our actions. We admit that they could rightfully shun us. We express our grief and sorrow at what we’ve done, we ask for a chance to make the relationship right. Then we give those we’ve harmed (not merely “offended”) the freedom to think it over and respond. They have to be sure they can trust us in the future. We know we are not entitled to reconciliation, but we seek it because that’s what we are striving for in life. Even if those we’ve harmed won’t forgive us, we resolve to live in such a way that perhaps, with time, they will change their mind.

None of this, in my personal opinion, characterizes Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump is clearly a brilliant businessman. But he has a history of crass, insulting comments about women; specific, named, publicly known women. He has a crudeness, a coarseness, even a hint of cruelty that is not a one-time lapse in an otherwise exemplary life. What he has said in his interactions with Megyn Kelly are not something out of character or below the standard to which Trump normally aspires. They are what we have come to expect of him. Ironically, it bothered us more than his plain admission that he has bought politicians!

So no, Donald Trump’s behavior does not require an apology.

It requires…repentance.

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I'm 60 years old, professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. I love my wife of 36 years, my three adult children and children-in-law. I love our three horses, two cats, and whatever other creatures decide to call our place home. I hate mowing grass, hanging pictures or shelves, or anything involving punching or drilling holes in walls. I love my job of studying and teaching the Old Testament. I've recently contracted a fierce interest in archaeology. I also enjoy guitars, jazz, vintage firearms, airplanes, photography, drystone masonry and, visiting the lands of the Bible.

8 COMMENTS

  1. John, if you are going to correct somebody about about what you believe to be an incorrect interpretation of a statement, at very least do not truncate the statement and pretend nothing more was said. He did not simply say there was “blood in her eyes,” but that blood was coming out of her eyes and then added “coming out of her wherever.” He said it whether you like it or not. I think that gives room for some to question what he might be saying, especially with his long history of derogatory comments, and forgive those of us who don’t take “politicians” at their word when they say they did not mean what others think they mean.

    • I don’t believe saying that his statement leaves room for question (yes, in light of his previous crassness) is “cherry-picking.” On the other hand, you suggested that he simply said, “blood in her eyes,” and moved on, which he did not. I’ll concede that it is still a vague statement, but I never said it was not. I merely said it was questionable. We can disagree about Trump’s inability to tell a lie, since you are so certain. I really have no response then to the number of complaints you make about the typical “conservative” response. You seem fairly certain of things I never meant to discuss. I’ll let you grind that axe with someone who cares about such broad assumptions.

  2. Note please, friends, that people who post under aliases, especially those that change from post to post, I interpret to be spammers or trolls and their comments will be deleted. I welcome disagreement, but not trolling. Anonymity in my book means trolling.

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