After Kanye West's major steal-the-spotlight intrusion into Taylor Swift's big moment (the one that Beyonce graciously gave back to her) at the VMAs, celebs and fans tweeted, 'statused,' and just plain wondered what Kanye was on, besides Hennessy and ego.
Well, me too. So I googled "Kanye apologizes," figuring he'd probably sorry it up when he sobered up. But what my search spit out was pages of "Kanye apologizes," and not just for the Taylor Swift thing. There was a Sacramento "I'm sorry." There were others.
Ok, so Kanye is a serial apologizer. One could say he suffers from C.A.D. (compulsive apologizing disorder). Never heard of it? Neither had it, till I just named it, but it fits nicely in the whole compulsive this and disorder that zeitgeist. And it has major money-making potential: think of the therapies, medicines, books that can latch onto this new addiction.
I don't mean to in any way make light of individuals who feel genuinely apologetic about things out of their control. But Kanye is a compulsive confessor of deeds he did do ... and do ... and redo. Look, I applaud people who take responsibility for their actions. It's great, even noble, to admit the error of your ways and then move on. We all hate people who can't cop to being wrong. Psychology labels those non-apologizers narcissists; you know, the ones like O.J. who turn abusing others into others abusing them. We've all met eternal victims. So sorry is good, but like all good things, there can be too much of a good thing.
The "I'm sorry" mantra is stitched into many religions. It can be "I have sinned" in Confession. It might be the letting go of the year's boo-boos at the Jewish New Year. Buddhism has a twist on this theme, stressing loving kindness and forgiveness both towards others and oneself. I'm sure every religion has its version. Certainly, politics and celebrity-dom does. The media and public demands apologies from larger than life figures who've fallen off their pedestals.
My twinge of issue with this practice is the potential for avoiding responsibility. If we can just say 'mea culpa' and then feel absolved, isn't it tempting to just be 'culpa' again ... and again? What is the down-side if we get to wipe the slate clean by apologizing? And in the case of a celebrity, the publicity can be harmful but as they say and say and say, "any publicity is good publicity." And for those who are not celebrities but just narcissists, it's ego-stroking to have attention focused on their "someone else somehow in some way always makes me do it" sorry selves.
Kanye West may truly be apologetic. I have no idea. Frankly, his regretful rants are none of my beeswax ... except he does broadcast them on his blog in CAPS and on Leno prime-time. I'm more interested in the phenomenon of compulsive apologizing as a fast track to enabling further apologizing-worthy misbehavior.
Maybe in some cases, "I'm sorry" masks a deeper cry for help. Priests, gods, the twitter/online/on air audience represent a power, a judge. Perhaps it's the little kids that stay alive in all of us, wanting our parents to set limits and scold us for being bad. Then we say we're sorry and all is good ... until we, of course, test the limits and act out again as we develop and grow. Maybe some of us still want to be bad boys and bad girls.
So, when we as grown-up big babies, screw up, it may not be enough to just sorry it up. It could be that empathy is another important piece of the adult puzzle. If the serial apologist can get outside of his or herself enough to cop an emotional feel of another person's perspective, then maybe momentary self-oriented remorse will give away to a more compassionate global connection.
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