Monday, April 23, 2012

So Much for World Peace!

Last year, Los Angeles Lakers' player, Ron Artest, officially changed his name to Metta World Peace.  "Metta" is a Buddhist word for "loving kindness."  This past Sunday, however, Metta World Peace was neither loving, nor kind.  During a game against the Oklahoma Thunder, he proceeded to flagrantly and brutally jab his elbow into the head of player James Hardin sending James sprawling to the court.  Metta was ejected and most likely will be suspended. This was not his first incident or outburst.  Once, when Metta was still Ron Artest, he ran into the stands to fight with fans. He's earned 13 suspensions and a reputation as a hot head during his NBA career. When he changed his name in 2011, many thought he was trying to separate himself from his bad boy image and turn over a new leaf.  He even won a citizenship award last season for his support of charity.

Today, the story of Metta's assault on James Hardin is all over the news. Most are outraged at this outrageously unsportsmanlike and violent act.  So am I.  However, I am more outraged by Metta's apology.  Here is what he said to reporters when asked if he wanted to apologize for what he did:

"It's unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unitentional elbow..I apologize to the Thunder and to James Hardin...It's unfortunate that so much emotion was going on at that time."

Sure the word "apologize" is there, but does that even come close to an apology? Does Metta acknowledge his wrong-doing, seek forgiveness and like his last name, seek to cultivate peace? 
I know, I should be used to this type of "apology" by now.  This is the "celebrity apology."  From athletes to actors, to politicians to mega-church pastors, this is the kind of gibberish they deliver to the public when they get caught.

These "celebrity apologies" usually sound like this:
  • I am sorry if I unintentionally happened to be involved in something. (I am not at fault. I didn't really know any better.  I just did what everyone else was doing.)
  • I am sorry I got caught up in the moment... (The MOMENT is at fault.)
  • I am sorry YOU feel that way about what I did or said. (YOU are at fault.)
  • I am sorry if I offended or hurt you by what I said or did.  (You are not at fault, but I am only sorry for how you feel, NOT for what I did which caused you to feel that way.)
  • It is unfortunate that you were involved and had to get hurt. (YOU have really bad timing/luck.)
  • It is unfortunate that this had to happen and that I have brought shame on my team/family/organization.  (I am sorry I got caught!)
Let's look again at what Metta World Peace said.  Which "celebrity apology" did he use from the above list?  Well, it seems like he double dribbled this apology.  It seems BOTH his victim and the moment are at fault.

"It's unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unitentional elbow..."

James had to get hit?  Really? Did he need to be punished for something?  Or have some sense knocked into him?  And Metta, an "unitentional elbow"?  Just a question - is your elbow controlled by your brain or does someone in the Laker's front office control it?  How can YOUR elbow unitentionally fly into the head of someone else without your consent?  Were you having an on-court elbow seizure? Or did a random "unitentional elbow" come flying out of the stands and smack James on the head?  Metta, watch the video. It wasn't an "unitentional elbow" that hit James, it was YOU. 

"It's unfortunate that so much emotion was going on at that time..."

It is? So maybe the NBA should ban emotion in basketball?  I mean, if emotion is to blame for your violent outburst, maybe we need some new rule that makes players care less about winning and losing.  And what about those unruly fans who waved signs, spun towels, stomped, clapped and screamed with emotion throughout the entire game?  Should they have to apologize for contributing to your angry outburst?  Should we make them sit quietly like statues during games so you can better control your "unintentional elbows"?

OK, so I am having some fun here at Metta World Peace's expense, but my point is that his apology is far from an apology.  It is a press statement.  It is a PR quip.  It is worthless and empty. He might as well have said, "I will not apologize."  There is no acceptance of responsibility.  There is no remorse.  There is no asking for forgiveness. There is no regret and there is certainly no heartfelt committment to do things differently next time.

Metta World Peace reminds me that sometimes my apologies can be the same way.
God I am really sorry if I should have done/said...
God, please help (fill in name here) to understand why I had to do what I had to do...
God, I know I shouldn't have said it like that, but I felt I...
God, I know I really should have (done this) but maybe you understand why I felt I needed to (do this instead)?
These apologies sure have a lot of "ifs" and "buts".

Or maybe I do manage a sincere apology...

"God I am truly sorry for saying/doing that.  It was wrong.  I let you down and I ask for your forgiveness.  Help me to be more like Christ in what I do and say."

Accept responsibility for my actions?  Check.
Ask God for forgiveness?  Check.
Ask God to help me do better next time?  Check.
Ask person I hurt for forgiveness? 
C'mon God! Do I really HAVE to do that?  It's so uncomfortable - that letting down my pride and admitting where I was at fault stuff.  Can't my apology to YOU be enough?  Look, there wasn't a single "if" or "but" in my entire apology! 

Apologies are difficult to do, but I need to go to both God and to the one I hurt with a contrite heart.  I can think of two reasons why I don't and they both amount to my pride getting in the way. 
Sometimes, I don't apologize because I don't think what I did was wrong.  Someone else made me act this way.  She had it coming.  I was only reacting to how he was talking to me.  It was no big deal.  I was frustrated. Tired. Everyone else was doing it.  I'm just getting what I am due.  Mind your own business.

Another way pride gets in the way, is when I am more concerned with protecting myself than with setting things right.  Humans naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain and therefore in all of us, there is a natural inclination to shield ourselves from guilt or shame.  Humility means I acknowledge my error, pride places the blame elsewhere.  Will I accept responsibility for the hurt I've inflicted and in some cases, for the longerm damage I have caused?  Not if my pride kicks in.  I will be more concerned about my reputation, than about making reparations. As a selfish, self-preserving human, it's easier and less painful to give a "celebrity apology."

Seeking forgiveness from both God and another person, requires I humble myself before both. (And in the case of Metta World Peace, sometimes in front of a world wide audience.)
So Metta World Peace, here is the apology you could have given (Feel free to use this as a script if it helps):

"James, I am very sorry I hit you.  I lashed out and I hurt you.  I made a mistake.  I ask you to please forgive me.  May God forgive me and help me to act differently next time."

Can you imagine what would be all over the news if Metta had made THAT his apology?  Sports commentators, bloggers and newscasters wouldn't even be talking about his elbow jab anymore...they'd be talking about how Metta brought "World Peace" back to his name and the NBA.

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