In my book, I wrote that one of my most important lessons I learned in life was that it was never too late to say I’m sorry.
Let me take you back: I was in Afghanistan in 2008 working for CIA as a liaison between the agency and the US Special Forces at Bagram Air Base. I was young, immature, and arrogant, and it showed, particularly when I started talking badly about one of my colleagues in a petty effort to get others to like me. Put others down to prop myself up.
My smearing got back to him, and he confronted me, but I still denied it. I knew I was wrong, but I was too headstrong to apologize. As I gained more self-awareness and humility as I grew older, I continued to see my colleague in the hallways of Langley, Virginia. Every time I saw him, I hung my head. I knew what I had done. I knew that I was wrong.
Six years after the fact, I stopped him outside our building; he was walking in as I was talking out. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for what happened all those years ago. I’ve always felt bad and I hope you accept my apology.”
“It’s all good,” he said. “Water under the bridge.” And that was that.
I’d like to apply this lesson to the title of this post and ask for your feedback on whether you agree or disagree. Recently, Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault in when he was in high school. Kavanaugh immediately denied it, his accuser came forward and testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and two more women came forward and accused Kavanaugh of misconduct.
Here’s what Kavanaugh should have done: he should have apologized. Here are some talking points he should have used:
- While I don’t recall the specific incident you mentioned, I’m sorry for what you had to go through.
- No woman should ever be put in that situation, and if I did that you then I am extremely sorry.
- Thank you for coming forward and letting me know the pain I caused you. Again, I’m sorry for that.
- I have two daughters and never want either of them to be put into a situation like that. We have to make it known and create a culture where behavior like that is unacceptable.
All Kavanaugh needed to do was apologize. He doesn’t have to remember the incident. But if someone is confident that you hurt her many years ago, why not apologize anyway? It’s not hard, in fact, it’s quite easy. Say “I’m sorry.”