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Apologies Under Compulsion

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If one must demand an apology from another, then whatever they get it will not be an apology. A statement of compliance to avoid further punishment is never an apology.


One does not teach people to apologize, it's a natural reaction when one becomes aware that something has gone wrong with the situation. Otherwise it is a statement of compliance to curtail a problem.


One does not need to apologize for their beliefs either. If this boy believes that respect must be earned. So be it. If you don't like it, don't hang around with people who have different beliefs than you.


I happen to think along similar lines as this boy, do I, too, need to apologize to this other kid's dad? There are a lot of people who believe as this boy does and NONE OF THEM are expected to apologize to the boy or his dad. Thus this scout does not need to make apologies for his beliefs.


The boy who's had his feelings hurt needs to basically grow up because he's going to run into a ton of people out there that will upset him on a daily basis and eventually he'll either be a hermit or learn to appreciate people of differing opinions.


The only lesson learned from this situation is that in the case of the boy who's feelings got hurt... either lie to him or ignore him so you can stay out of trouble, but the last thing you ever want to do is express an honest opinion when asked.


True friendship is based on honesty and respect, these two boys don't seem to be able to tolerate either and if their "friendship" has been harmed, I'm thinking it wasn't really there in the first place.





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Contrition should flow from the heart. That form of natural contrition will result in apologies and amends.


Forced apologies ... in my mind are worse than useless.


If the matter is at the point of a forced apology, it's time for all to figure out the least painful way to the exits. In a youth Scouting case, that may be to ask the boy and his family to transfer to a new Troop, and the unit helps in assuring records move along swiftly. In the case of leaders, its a quiet departure and thanks for the service.


Drama helps no one ... except actors on a stage.


My thoughts.

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Yah, let me go back to my post...


I said the first duty after hurting someone is to be sorry for doing so. The second is to apologize.


If a person has so little empathy for another as to not be sorry for hurting them, then da answer is consequences. They must receive consequences for their action, which in turn makes them sorry. ;)


One of those consequences of course is da natural consequence, eh? They damage relationships and lose friends.


If yeh value a relationship, yeh often are sorry and apologize even if yeh don't quite see that your action was wrong. Mrs. Beavah has me well trained in that way, eh? :) Yeh apologize because yeh are sorry for the consequence of your action - the damage to da relationship. And, hopefully, slowly, yeh learn what sorts of actions damage relationships even if yeh didn't recognize 'em as being wrong before.


Same with kids. If they haven't yet learned how to properly judge actions, then yeh have to teach 'em by imposing consequences so they associate certain actions with certain negative consequences. Smoke pot? Lose your driving privileges, get grounded, etc.... Doesn't matter whether junior argues that occasional recreational use is safe, or that he's not really sorry ("Can I just apologize for getting caught?"). Yeh make da consequences severe enough that junior becomes truly sorry. Then yeh accept an apology and let him work off his penance.


Remorse. Contrition. Forgiveness. Restitution. Resolution. We want to teach kids the pattern for how they repair errors. And yep, to answer Lisabob's question, I apologize to kids and parents all the time.


I don't reckon that it matters if da other person was also at fault. I had younger brothers. Younger brothers, as yeh all know, are annoying. But just because my younger brother was being a pest didn't mean that it was OK for me to body slam him over da fence out back (as I learned ;) ). When we apologize, we have to do it unconditionally, eh? Recognizing that our own actions were wrong regardless of da fact that the other fellow's were also wrong.





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Yikes, doubled with a couple of people.


I couldn't disagree more with John-in-KC. I think where we do our best work in Scoutin' is when a lad has screwed up and it's at the point of requiring an apology. That's not the time to cut bait and shoo the kid to the door, it's da time to work hardest. No other point teaches our lessons of character and citizenship as deeply - to both the boy and to his peers.


We're all about teaching youth, eh? Yep, respect is something that is earned. And da lad in question hasn't earned any. He's behaved like an immature little kid, and he needs to learn that. Nope, the adult isn't perfect. None of us are. He's goin' to work with and for lots of imperfect people in his life. He's goin' to do lots of things he disagrees with or things he thinks are busy-work in school, in family life, in jobs. And if he mouths off every time someone else ain't perfect or every time he disagrees with a task he's goin' to be a very, very lonely unhappy fellow.


That's where I think jblake is doin' him a disservice. He's not helpin' the lad learn or develop personal character, or become worthy of respect. We ultimately don't apologize to others because we owe it to them, we do it because we owe it to ourselves. It's a sign of our personal character.


Yeh get it wrong when yeh focus on the other fellow, like da way jblake is just makin' excuses for the boy and blaming the victim. His friend should just suck it up because people insulting him and his family are a part of life? Yeh have to be kidding!


Nope, da consequence is that yeh lose a friend, or yeh lose participation in scouting. Just like arguin' with the ref, eh? Yeh can do it. And the ref might even be wrong. But yeh get ejected from da game, cost your team the win, and lose the respect of those who value good sportsmanship. It does not demonstrate good character, and yeh should be sorry for that. It's not about da ref or the adult leader, eh? It's about the boy and his character. So unlike jblake, I'd tell the lad I expect him to show that he has more character than the adult by stepping up to apologize and mend da relationship first.


Yah, yeh can't make someone contrite who is not. But da relationship can't be repaired until they are. Teens are good at takin' aim at their own feet in that way and pulling da trigger, sacrificing their relationships and their own character. So the trick is to get 'em past that oddly selfish self-righteousness. Not enabling it.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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I find it interesting that we have capable leaders on both sides of this issue of apologies made under compulsion.



I would suggest that Beavah argues in favor of that based on pragmatism. You are going to encounter unfair forces and powers who demand that you do things that you think are bad or mistaken, and a pragmatic person will adapt to that fact of life when they need to to get along.


That's true enough I suppose. It allows people to get along in an imperfect world. Perhaps it's a fact of life people need to understand and use.


But is it SCOUTING? Don't we want to teach boys and ourselves to live by what is right, rather than what is easy?


And isn't one of the first lessons a new Patrol Leader learns is that leadership isn't about giving orders that others are compelled to follow? In order to be a leader, you often or usually have to use a variety of methods to gain compliance with your program. Just giving orders doesn't work because your have a limited ability to force others to do what you want.


There are inevitably going to be disagreements about what is right. But if those in power decide they are right, I would argue that the consequence for disagreement should not be a forced apology, but whatever other punishment is deemed to be appropriate.


Suspend the kid from the program for a month, perhaps. That's a consequence that makes a point. That gives the kid a month to think about what he did, and perhaps he will decide what he did was wrong and choose to apologize. But even if he doesn't he has been punished for what has been deemed bad behavior. When he returns he has paid his debt and EVERYONE can get on with the program.


I suggest that this is pragmatism for those who have power. It allows those with power to enforce their view of what the facts are or what is right without demanding something they really don't have the power to get --- an apology.


The bottom line for me is that I think we live in a more honest and decent world if we do not use compulsion to obtain an apology people honestly don't feel is owed.




(This message has been edited by seattlepioneer)

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I do have to amend what I said. I did demand an apology once.. Lisabob's question made me think of it. I demanded an apology from someone at the Council level to be given to my son..


It was when my son signed up for Eagle trail.. First off it was a bad summer where he had something medically wrong with him that we could not get diagnosed, but certain changes in movement caused him to short circit so to speak and have seizures similar to epilepsy, but it was not (anywhere from 0 to 75 times a day).


My son wanted to do Eagle Trail, and since it wasn't rigous we agreed, but paid for another boy in the troop to go with him and look out for him.


That year the staff decided to change Eagle Trail but not tell anyone.. It went from a meritbadge course, to an active course which they (thought) would teach all the youth all the MB's by just doing.. They waited till parents left then sprang "surprise" on the kids.. And started barking orders at them as if it was boot camp.. Don't ask just follow orders.. And they disallowed phone calls to parents to ask to be picked up.


They did long hikes, Cope courses, some other courses, had then working on fixing up the camp.. And rather then the food from the dinning hall just fed the PB & J and water for the week.. When all was done, they looked at what could get signed off from the MB the kids needed.. And my son got I think total 2 requirements signed off from the 5 MB he planned on taking. Plus they lost all the work he did on pre-requisites, but did not sign them off either. So all that work had to be recreated later..


My son did refuse to go on the high ropes of Copes to which those running the course made fun of him for.. But seriously there was ALOT he should not have been doing that week given his medical condition.


I asked the Council to apologize to kids, or we reimbuse us our money.. They had a choice. The apology was not thinking the Council would learn from it. It was so my son could learn the value of apologizing when you are wrong.. They refuse to apologize, or reimburse us our money.. So we reimbursed ourselves the money by giving FOS $1 rather then what we would have contributed until the funds were reimbursed for both the scouts fees for that camp program.


Yes - I do feel that in our organization our Adult leadership should follow a good example of apologizing to our youth members when we are wrong, in order for them to learn the value of it. Normally "No" it should not have to be forced from us though. It really should come freely.. I just felt the council if given a choice of loosing money or offering an apology, they would have decided the apology was the better choice.


Also in scouts I have apologized myself for things I felt needed it. As well as in other things during my life..


Our family was not the only one to complain though.. They knew it was a disastor, the next year they did Trail to Eagle the old way, because it was demanded they do so. After that, Trail to Eagle was not offered at our camp any more.

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I may be going over the top on this so if I am, let me know


lets just say:


I am a 13 year old boy and I am in class with another 13 year old boy whom I do not like. He smells funny, his mother dresses him funny, he has an obnoxous laugh and he combs his hair funny. He just is about the most repulsive critter on earth.


One day in the school yard he says something to me that I object to, it may be something like "The Bears Suck" or perhaps even "The sky sure is blue today" and I take the occassion to whale on him until he has blood coming from his mouth, nose and the cut under his left eye.


I get suspended from school and am told I have to apologize to the loathsome critter. I refuse, he had the beating coming to him and I will not say I am sorry because I did not do anything wrong. I have an adult who tells me that I don't have to apologize if I do not think I did anything wrong and that makes me feel great. I will not apologize, I don't feel the need because he deserved it.


Sounds like a great society we are carving out for ourselves

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I would suggest that Beavah argues in favor of that based on pragmatism.


Nah, I think yeh missed it.


I'm arguing based on what's best for the boy in terms of learning and developing his personal character.


Has nuthin' to do with pragmatism. Has nothing to do with who was "right" or "wrong" or "fair" or some 1960s rebellious notion of "power".


Just has to do with character.


A ref can make a bad call. But if yeh then pitch a fit and argue with da ref and call him a power-monger and all da rest, that is a also a bad call. It's up to da ref whether he apologizes for the bad call (remember that umpire who sunk the fellow's no-hitter a year or two ago?). That's not da question, though. The question is what should the boy do about his own behavior in order to demonstrate character? And da answer is he should apologize to the referee for his poor sportsmanship.


OGE's example is an even better one, eh?


Our obligation as parents and scouters is to teach boys appropriate behavior, citizenship, and character, eh? And yep, sometimes the lads are goin' to go on about how wrong the referee was and how they shouldn't be respected just because they are old and wear a striped shirt and all da rest. Just like da average teen will talk about what a power trip their parents are on and why can't they have the car to go to the college sorority party, or how da other fellow in the playground is a dork and doesn't deserve respect and dissed on the Bears. They're still learning how to behave. They still need us to act as teachers.


They need to know that it's not right to lash out like that in front of others, and they need to learn to apologize for it when they do. Yah, sure, and they also need to learn more proper techniques for handlin' disagreements, like making an appointment for a more personal, private conversation later on to discuss the issue reasonably, and how to "agree to disagree" with grace.


Yep, if yeh insist on viewing this as some "power" thing, you're right, eh? Parents, teachers, referees, scouters, da SPL or PL, etc. are all the responsible adults or youth leaders in da situation. They are the "power". And their duty is to use that power to teach younger, less experienced folks how to act with character and dignity even in hard situations. Because even when a teen really, truly feels he is right, that doesn't mean he is; nor does it mean he chose da proper way to express himself. He's still learning what's right and what's appropriate.


Now, I'll agree it's a better message if da person doing the enforcing is different than the person who was insulted. That's why ideally should be the parents insisting on the apology to the SM or the referee. But these days, da parents tend to support the little darlin' against those awful, power-mongering, unfair adults who give up their weekends to go camping with other people's kids.


Guess I'm just too old fashioned for da liberal post-baby-boom world.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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JKC -- I absolutely agree, contrition comes from the heart, but being able to communicate that contrition in the form of an apology is a learned skill. I would call it a skill which goes to the heart of our mission and we should help the boys learn it when the opportunity presents itself.


An apology is an outward expression of all those things we hope are going on in some's head -- contrition, remorse, empathy, understanding their own actions and learning from them. Like a lot of things, an apology is more about the person offering the apology than the one receiving it.


I have apologized to my Scouts many times. Because I want to set a good example for the bosy, when an apology is necessary I will often make a bigger deal of it that is warranted. I want the boys to know that no one is above making an apology, even the Scoutmaster. If nothing else, it's an important part of leadership the boys need to understand.


Look -- this whole topic is much more complicated and nuanced that could possibly be adequately explained on a forum like this. Of course if you tell a kid he's suspended for a month, but you'll cut it to two weeks if he apologizes, you're going to get a forced, insincere apology. Or if in the middle of a fire-fight you scream at your kid, "YOU APOLOGIZE TO YOUR BROTHER RIGHT NOW!", you'll only get a canned, "Sorry" with about as much thought behind the apology as you put into your demand. We need to be smarter than that. Like many things we do to teach and counsel boys, eliciting a sincere apology requires understanding, compassion, finess and a bit of art.


Take Moose's example with her son. If I were the principal and your son came to me and explained his feelings about apologizing to the bullies, I would not have expected him to apologize. (Personally, your son should have been given a commendation for helping clean up the school, but that's another thread.) I do think it would have been reasonable -- and a pretty classy -- for your son to apologize to the principal for the way in which he handled the problem, but I can very easily understand your son's position toward the bullies. An apology is not always warranted.


And yes, Seattle, I will apologize to you and anyone else who may have been offended by my quip about a hampster in the microwave. I understand that some people are very sensitive to any suggestion of animal abuse. Long-time forum members know I and others often use humor and sarcasm to make a point. Unfortunately sarcasm and humor translates poorly in a written medium such as this. But I honestly belive my comments were sufficiently "over the top" that they were fairly obviously intended sarcastically. I will ask that you consider these factors while reading future posts. Regardless, if my attempt at humor bothered you, I sincerely apologize.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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These are all good posts. Yes, ideally, apologies should be sincere. However, sometimes an enforced apology is necessary to get the real apology process started. Many times I have seen two mulish boys, shooting daggers at each other, being forced to shake hands. Funny, but after that happens, conditions soon return to normal. A quiet follow-up (separately to each), after the handshake -- such as, "What was that all about?" -- is sometimes helpful.

I often apologize for things that are not my fault. Saying "I'm sorry" is part of the social grease that helps the society to function. I remember I was once walking down a dark deserted hallway late at night. A good looking young woman suddenly appeared from around the corner. When she saw me, she gasped and froze -- petrified and scared. While I hadn't done anything wrong, I said, "I'm sorry." That resolved the situation.

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Reminds me of a situation that we dealt with a number of years ago. On a campout with new crossovers, the boys were out in the woods playing a game. During the game, the older boys held down and hit one of the new scouts.


What we found was that the new scout had been captured, and kept sneaking out of "jail". While the older scouts were attempting to return him to "jail" and have him stay until his team freed him, there was some threats given, and the new scout said words to the effect of "go ahead and hit me".


After investigation and talking to the older boys, the SM asked the older boys to write an appology. All but one were appologetic for their role in hitting the new scout. However, one scout wrote that he did not think he needed to appologize because the scout had given permission to be hit.


This gave another opportunity to sit down with this particular scout and have a discussion about the difference in age and size, how the new scout was wanting to fit in (same reason as why new members will put up with hazing in instances where it is present), and how this all fit in with the scout law. He still didnt get it, and continued to be self centered.

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A lot of "examples" floating around here.


Okay, smelly kid didn't deserve to get beat up because he didn't do anything wrong. An apology is called for in this situation. If the instigator doesn't apologize because they didn't see anything wrong with what they did, an apology is worthless because the boy has no moral character in which to base an apology.


However, if the smelly kid asked someone if they smelled bad, and the person answered honestly, Yes, and smelly kid was offended. Well, no apology is needed for an honest opinion.


I'm thinking in the original post way back at the dawn of time, the one boy asked the other boy's opinion and was then offended. Too bad, get over it. Otherwise, if one consistently reacts to honest opinions with hurt feelings, everyone will eventually learn to lie to them or give them the silent treatment just to avoid the hassle.


So, what's it gonna be Scouters? Honest opinions followed by apologies or lies so you don't hurt their feelings when you know your opinion differs from theirs?


The reason there is so much variance in answers on the topic is because there is no one simple answer to make this go away.


Saying another kid's dad can only get respect if he earns it is not "bad behavior". It's not disrespect either, it's a tenet that a lot of people agree with and live by.


But as I always say, your mileage may vary.







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I approach scouting as real world experiences scaled down to a boys size. The lessons learned during scouting activites earned are intended to be practice for each scouts real life as adults.


One year the troop spent the weekend at Tinker Air Force Base and to make a long story short, the troop imbarrassed itself and was asked not to come back. My job is to get the scouts to understand their bad choices and how to respond to repercussions of those bad choices. Are some of you folks suggesting that a letter of apology should not be sent unless the scouts are really sorry? Does this mean we should only teach habits of appropriate behavior when the boys are in the mood?


I can't say whether all the scouts who communicated with the General the following weeks were truely sorry, but a letter of apology was a part of the process and the troop is welcomed back.



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A related question: Should a scout write a thank you to someone that gave him a gift or did him a favor? Even if he is not really appreciative? I think the answer is yes, because it is part of learning to be appreciative. Apology under compulsion is the flip side.

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I would agree with the view that an apology need not be an admission that the person apologizing was wrong in some way, or even "sincere" in the sense that the apologizing party feels bad about what happened. Rather, an apology is an acknowledgement that something has been broken -- a relationship, the peace, an expectation of how things should be done -- and that the apologizing person has chosen (for whatever reason) to attempt to repair what was broken. In that sense, an apology is an act of bravery and a commitment for the future.


In Barry's story, the entire troop bore the responsibility, and so it was appropriate to ask (or even to compel) all of the Scouts -- even the innocent -- to apologize as part of their shared responsibility to and for the troop. I think that is a different case than an individual being compelled to apologize for his or her own acts. Unless it is being done for training purposes (these are the kinds of situations in which you apologize, and this is how you do it), I think in most cases a compelled apology is either just a form of punishment or a substitute for an apology from the person requiring it: "I'm sorry my parenting skills failed and my kid is such a jack___," "I'm sorry I didn't keep an eye on those two even though I knew they were troublemakers."


Dan K.

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