Elections have consequences. He said give it to him. Well, here ya have it, Mr. President!
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"True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive."
Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
All too often these days, we hear that a person has demanded an apology from another person. It happens on all sides of the political aisle, and in general, in all areas of our lives.
There is a question that has not been asked of this new fad of apology seekers.
What happens if the person who has the demand put on them is not truly sorry, but just gives an apology because one was demanded? Does that make the situation right? Does that truly make you feel better?
As with many things in today’s society, authentic apologies are rare. It is a character trait that seems to have been lost in this new and improved "enlightened" society we have created with the onset of political correctness. All too often, when we hear someone apologizing, it is not an apology for their actions, but instead, an apology that they were caught. The sincerity of their heart in the apology is missing.
When my children get into squabbles, I do not "demand" they apologize to the offended sibling. Nor do I tell them to tell someone they are sorry. Instead, I talk to them about their actions; I ask them questions about whether or not their actions were right or wrong; I ask them how they think the offended person feels about what happened; and then finally, I ask them how it makes them feel personally to know they were the cause of the other person’s feelings being hurt.
"A stiff apology is a second insult…The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt."
Gilbert K. Chesterton
I do not want empty words, when I am given an apology. If it is not felt from the heart, I would rather not have it. If it is a situation where the person is more sorry they got caught than they are their actions, an apology means absolutely nothing. I want to teach my children this concept. If you are not sorry for your actions, do not give the apology. Yes, there are still consequences for not being sorry. Proverbs 16:18 says it plainly:
"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
An apology is an effort to "make things right."
The official Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of an apology is:
an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret
There is a qualifier right there in the definition. "…accompanied by an expression of regret."
In researching this article, I found an excellent website: Perfect Apology. From this website, on the "Regret and Remorse" section, it says:
We’ll begin here by describing important distinctions between mistakes and actions that elicit feelings of regret and those that expose stronger feelings of remorse.
Regret is a rational, intelligent and, on occasion, emotional reaction to some unexpected, unintended and often costly consequence of some event or action.
Remorse, on the other hand, takes on a bitter, deeper form that elicits much stronger personal and emotional reactions to personal guilt, societal shame, humiliation, resentment and often anger.
There is a noticeable difference in regret and remorse, however, they are both an emotional reaction. If there is no emotion- there is no sincerity. Without sincerity, an apology means nothing.
If you do not truly regret your actions, you should not apologize. Your pride and haughty spirit will bring you very painful consequences, but lying about being sorry for your actions just heaps more bad consequences on you. If you are not truly interested in making things right, but instead still believe that you are right, and you are simply seeking to appease the other person, your words mean nothing.
"It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and valuesin order to genuinely apologize."
There are great rewards for having a heart of humility, and acknowledging when you are wrong, and truly seeking to make things right with the person or people you have wronged.
"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." James 5:16
There is healing with an apology from the heart- a true apology. It is a healing of the relationship and circumstances of the offense to begin with. In many situations, there are other situations that are healed as a result of an apology.
Oftentimes, those who demand an apology fail to take a look in their own backyard.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5
We all have faults. However, if we focus on the faults of others, demanding that they owe us an apology, we must then look at how we have wronged other people and apologize to them. It is wrong to demand something of someone when you are not willing to do the same for those you have offended.
The true test of character comes from your actions in the future. If you apologize for something, but continue to do the same thing, you have clearly shown your apology was just empty words.
"Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past."
It was a “teaching moment” on one of the kids’ channels, but the words of wisdom were so profound.
Every action starts a chain reaction.
Oh, if only this simple, yet profound life lesson were taught in homes and schools across this nation! This would be the revolution meant for dreams!
Everything in life is a choice. Every single choice we make has a consequence– good, bad or indifferent.
Unfortunately, our society has morphed from the days of choices and consequences to making excuses and blame games. The world is literally spinning out of control because we’ve allowed the chain reaction to become distorted and mutilated.
By allowing the chain reaction to become distorted and mutilated without repairing it, we are now seeing the effects of what a dysfunctional society produces. Rather than teaching our children that their actions have consequences, they are now coddled by an educational system which teaches them everyone is a winner at everything, and there are never any losers.
We are reaping the consequences of this indoctrination in every facet of our society.
One example of the consequences we are experiencing can be found in the case of Justine Winter, a Montana teenager. Her actions started a chain reaction that has cost not only her, but many people, dearly!
Since the dawn of time, teenage girls are synonymous with “drama”. However, by smothering the expectation of taking personal responsibility, society has cultivated a new ‘breed’ of ‘drama queens’. Justine Winter is in this “new breed’ of “drama queens.’
In March of 2009, Justine Winter and her boyfriend, Ryan Langford, were arguing. He had read an entry in her diary about her feelings for one of his friends. They argued, and when they parted ways for the evening, she drove away believing they were breaking up. She was distraught, as most teenage girls are when there is a romantic breakup.
The two teenagers continued to argue for nearly half an hour- by text messages- as she drove home. With each text she became more frantic and irrational.
Justine: “Goodbye, Ryan… I am telling the truth when I tell you I love you. My last words, I love you Ryan.”
Ryan: “Yeah, whatever you say. You win, I lose.”
Justine: “If I won, I would have you, and I wouldn’t crash my car,” she wrote in a distraught message. Then, in yet another message, she added, “Thats why I am going to wreck my car. …because i am a terrible person. … i want to kill mysself [sic]. good bye ryan. I love you.”
She made a choice- and acted on that choice- which started a chain reaction that would change many lives forever.
Life was quite the opposite for Erin Thompson, a 35-year-old pregnant wife and mother to a teenage son, Caden. Caden, a very talented drummer, had the honor of being one of only three students who were chosen to play at a school concert. They were driving home after the concert when their car- and lives- literally collided with Justine.
Passerby’s who stopped to help did not think Justine would make it. She was airlifted to the hospital where she spent 7 weeks in ICU and went through multiple surgeries. She left the hospital with a neck brace.
Erin, her unborn child, and Caden died at the scene of the crash. Erin’s husband was given the devastating news in a phone call from the police.
After an investigation of the crash, police determined that Justine was driving 85 miles per hour on a bridge that was under construction. She made no effort to brake as she entered the construction zone. Justine’s car crossed over into Erin’s lane, colliding head on and causing a horrific explosion. When no explanation was found as to why Justine crossed over into Erin’s lane, they continued to investigate. It was not long before the “Why” question was answered. The text messages between Justine and Ryan were discovered.
The text messages were clear- Justine had threatened to crash her car just moments before the actual crash occurred. The girl who wanted to end her life, survived the crash, but took the lives of 3 others. Patrol Sgt. Ernie Freebury summed it up by saying:
“She did just exactly what she said she was going to do.”
It sounds like an open and shut case, right? Not so fast!
Justine says she doesn’t remember that night at all, and her family says she didn’t really mean what she said in the text messages. In fact, her family disagreed with the investigators on the cause of the crash, and Justine and her father sued the estate of Erin Thompson, claiming that Erin caused the crash, not Justine. They also sued three companies who were involved in the construction, alleging improper traffic marking and lighting at the construction site.
Talk about adding insult to injury! This takes the cake in that department!
This is the moment Justine’s father failed her miserably. Rather than standing beside her, supporting her through the tragedy that changed her life forever, he allowed her to blame someone else for a choice she made. Not only did he allow her to blame someone else, he also encouraged her in the blame game by acting on behalf of her and allowing her to file the lawsuit. While his love for his daughter is understandable, enabling her in her cowardice has only hurt his daughter more, not helped her!
In a town that was already divided in this tragedy, the division grew even wider. Many people were appalled that the Winter family blamed the very people that had already suffered so much. Yet, not everyone agreed with this sentiment, and could not believe that this was ruled a crime.
Friends of Justine’s family said they believed it was ” a plain and simple accident”. How do they explain the text messages she sent just moments before saying she was going to crash her car?
Attorney Ed Corrigan explained it, saying:
“She purposely went into that wrong way in a traffic, ran into that car … and had to know, or should have known that by doing so, she was going to kill the occupants in that other vehicle.”
Is Mr. Corrigan right, or is it something entirely different? Could it be that Justine is just another symptom of the warped, self-absorbed society we have become? Could it be that Justine was only thinking of herself, how she felt and what she wanted, never thinking of how her actions could affect those around her?
We all have to make choices every day of our life. Some of our choices are good. Some of our choices are bad. Some of our choices do not really make a difference in the outcome of life at all. Some choices have devastating consequences.
Unfortunately, this life lesson is slowly being eroded by a society that would rather teach our children to blame others for their actions rather than taking personal responsibility.
We ultimately want to understand the effects of unintended consequences inherent in all of politics. To do so we must first understand systems, feedback, and feedback loops. Unintended consequences are produced by feedback acting upon systems through feedback loops. But don’t go glassy eyed and skip to the examples. Understanding all this stuff, especially within the framework of politics and with recognizable examples, is pretty easy. Look at it this way: if you want to understand unintended consequences (and you do!), then you first have to understand this stuff.
Systems, Feedback, and Feedback Loops
A system is actually anything YOU define. However, to be useful, we need to examine some systems that have been defined by others, such as the laws within we are forced to work. We are familiar with our political system, the economic system (US and worldwide), the tax system, and the energy and the (subsidized) alternative fuel systems, just to name a few.
Above is a picture of a very simple system. All systems, regardless of complexity, have input(s), process(es), output(s), and feedback. Feedback is information about the output produced that can modify input(s) and/or process(es). The mechanisms for returning information are called feedback loops. There are two types of feedback loops – positive (reinforcing) and negative (controlling). BTW, the feedback loop names have no intrinsic value (they are just names), and a system may have any number of feedback loops.
As a familiar example, consider the negative feedback loop that keeps conditions within set limits. Your home heating system thermostat has a thermometer which detects when the temperature of your home drops below your desired temperature, which triggers a response – the heating is turned on. When your home is brought back to the desired temperature, the heating system is turned off. A positive feedback loop, however, leads to divergent behavior: indefinite expansion (a running away toward infinity), or the blocking of an activity (a running away toward zero). Each positive reaction involves another; there is a snowball effect. Examples include population explosion, industrial expansion, capital invested at compound interest, and inflation.
So the “system” is the law passed by politicians. People then look at feedback loops (positive or negative or both) that will allow them to circumvent the law. Unintended consequences arise when people circumvent the law by using feedback loops not thought of by the politicians who passed the law. Some examples are cited below.
The law of unintended consequences was first defined by sociologist Robert K. Merton in 1936, in an article, The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action, which covers different ways that actions, particularly those taken on a large scale, such as by governments, may have unexpected consequences. Two reasons why the law of unintended consequences works is that the framers of a social change (laws) are either ignorant of possible far reaching effects of the law, or make errors when they develop a change that don’t have the effects they desired. Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries. For just as long, politicians have ignored it.
Unintended consequences can be grouped into three types:
- A positive, unexpected benefit (usually called a windfall).
- A negative, unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy (CAFE, designed to increase fuel mileage, but causing cars to be smaller and lighter, increasing crash deaths).
- A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse, such as when a policy has a perverse incentive that causes actions opposite to what was intended).
The law of unintended consequences is a warning that an intervention in any complex system can create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. Similar to Murphy’s law, it is used as a warning against the hubristic belief that humans can completely control the world around them.
Examples in Politics
In the economic downturn of 2008, the US central bank undertook a series of what they considered “positive initiatives” to stimulate the economy. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke defended his position by saying that the policy of “quantitative easing” (bond purchasing), will “stimulate the economy and create jobs.” It did not. The unintended consequence of these initiatives are proving to be catastrophic to the economy and employment.
In a famous example, welfare programs, designed to aid families in economic distress led to the unintended consequence of some folks deliberately staying on welfare and “abusing the system.” This led to welfare reform when people were given a limited time to get off welfare rolls. An unintended consequence of welfare reform was the hardship it placed on many single mothers. Since they had to return to work, and they still might lack training to take on high paying work, they had to struggle to find childcare that would be inexpensive enough. Some women who participated in the US welfare to work program found themselves in even greater poverty once they began to work, and the need for inexpensive childcare placed an undue burden on the childcare system.
The law of unintended consequences provides the basis for many criticisms of government programs. Unintended consequences can add so much to the costs of some programs that they make the programs unwise even if they achieve their stated goals. Social Security has helped alleviate poverty among senior citizens. Many economists argued that it has carried a cost that goes beyond the payroll taxes levied on workers and employers. Economist Martin Feldstein and others maintain that today’s workers save less for their old age because they know they will receive Social Security checks when they retire. If Feldstein and the others are correct, it means that less savings are available, less investment takes place, and the economy and wages grow more slowly than they would without Social Security.
The law of unintended consequences is always at work and is everywhere. People outraged about high prices of fuel delivered in Iraq in the early days of the Iraq war advocated price controls to keep the prices closer to usual levels. An unintended consequence was that suppliers of fuel, who would have been more than willing to supply fuel quickly at the higher market price, were less willing to do so at the government controlled price. The result was a shortage of fuel where it was badly needed.
Government licensing of electricians is another example. It keeps the supply of electricians below what it would otherwise be, and keeps the price of electricians’ services higher than they would otherwise be. One unintended consequence is that people sometimes do their own electrical work, and, occasionally, one of these do-it-yourselfers is electrocuted.
“Systems,” as are laws passed by politicians, are ubiquitous – we cannot avoid them. The results, as we have seen above, fall into three categories, usually (for us cynics) the third one. So what can we do to protect against unintended consequences? Well… nothing, really. We are all human, and humans make mistakes. So our best protection is to elect politicians who use the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method to draft laws. Simple systems (and laws) have a much better chance of NOT having unintended consequences identified. (Can anyone here say anything about the 2000+ page Obamacare bill?)
But that’s just my opinion.