A Quick Recap:
Rielle Hunter, the woman who had a child in secret with former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, has changed her tune. This comes 6 years after her affair with Edwards. This week, her public defiance has been replaced with remorse. Hunter is so sorry, in fact, that on Tuesday she re-released her June 2012 memoir What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me. The updated version, titled In Hindsight, What Really Happened, is filled with Hunter’s regrets and mistakes.
Is Her Apology A Good One?
I’ve analyzed Hunter’s comments using the five languages of apology from my 2013 book with Gary Chapman, When Sorry Isn’t Enough. Here is a numbered list of our apology languages. Below my list, I’ve referenced these numbers in parentheses following Hunter’s comments.
1. Expressing regret- Saying “I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused.”
2. Accepting responsibility- Saying “I was wrong.”
3. Making restitution- Asking, “What can I do to make things right?
4. Genuinely repenting- Stating how you will change so you will not do it again.
5. Requesting forgiveness- Asking, “Will you please forgive me?”
What She Said:
“For years I was so viciously attacked by the media and the world that I felt like a victim. I now realize that the attacks are actually beside the point. The point is: I behaved badly.” (#2)
“I’m sorry — really, really sorry.” (#1)
“I am very sorry for my wrong, selfish behavior” (#1 and #2)
“Back in 2006, I did not think about the scope of my actions, how my falling in love with John Edwards, and acting on that love, could hurt so many people. I hurt Elizabeth and her kids. I hurt her family. I hurt John’s family. I hurt people that knew Elizabeth. I hurt people who didn’t know Elizabeth but loved her from afar. I hurt people who gave their hard earned dollars to a campaign — a cause they believed in…” (#1 and #2)
“Unfortunately, I was not thinking about anyone but myself. I was selfish. I fell in love with John Edwards and wanted to be with him and that desire trumped everything else.” (#2)
What The Public is Saying:
The public has not been won over by Hunter’s apology. It’s hard to find a supportive comment for her among any of the blog comments I’ve reviewed. One website took a vote with this question:
Rielle Hunter apologizes: Do you buy it?
Their preliminary results:
As an apology expert, I tell people what to say when messy situations arise. What exactly would I tell Rielle Hunter? I’d say, “Your apology is better late than never. You have made a start here but you’ve only covered two of the five languages of apology. I want to believe that your apology is sincere but others will be watching to see action along with your words. What kind of action would help you make amends? Invest in programs that build healthy families. Also, the fact that your book release coincides with your apology makes it appear as if the purpose of your apology is to sell books. It reminds me of when a criminal apologizes before being sentenced. The motive of the apology immediately becomes suspect.”
Most people will say that they can’t relate to Hunter’s apology situation. However, people do illicit things and betray others all the time. If you ever find yourself needing to offer a big mea culpa, be bold in your apology. Admit that your past excuses were hair brained and completely pitiful. Make amends and talk about your process of change. What exactly has brought you to your senses? Was it a spiritual experience? Wise counsel? A lightening bolt? Finally, ask your audience to forgive you. For some people, this request is an absolutely essential part of your apology. If you don’t ask for their forgiveness, our research shows that some people will feel you are holding out on them.
What Could be Next?
I imagine that talk show hosts are lining up to try to get John or Kate Edwards to sit down on TV and talk live with a contrite Rielle Hunter. Such a show might gather high ratings but I can’t imagine that it would do any good for the innocent children in their families.
An Apology Side Note:
While doing research for this blog post, I came across another mention of an apology. Here is some background: Hunter grew up with three sisters and no brothers. Her parents divorced when she was seventeen. On August 13, 2008, Hunter’s sister, Roxanne Druck Marshall, publically apologized to John Edwards’s wife Elizabeth for her sister’s behavior.
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