Ethics Blog

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July 19, 2010

It was announced last week that Piers Morgan might replace Larry King on CNN. Piers, according to press reports: “comes with baggage.” He was fired from the position of Newspaper Editor of the Daily Mirror for allowing the publication of hoaxed images of troops abusing prisoners in Iraq. The reports also mentioned that he had been at the center of a share-dealing “scandal.”

Don’t we all carry some baggage? Have we not all at one point done something in the past, both in our work life and in our private life, that we would not do again, or that we are ashamed of and hope others will not find out?

The question is should Piers (and we) be forgiven?

We should first remember that forgiveness is never an entitlement but a gift. The etymology of the word “forgive” comes from the Old English word of “forgiefan” which means to give completely. Hence the expression: “begging” for forgiveness. You can beg for forgiveness but you cannot demand it.

Secondly forgiveness does not always exclude retribution. We sometimes have to live with the consequences of our action and misconduct.

Although forgiveness is not an entitlement, there may be some factors that could determine whether we have reasons to hope for forgiveness.

Let me list three:

  • Honesty: We should take full responsibility for the wrong we have done and not blame others or give excuses.
  • Remorse: We should show true remorse both in words and attitude.
  • Apology: The apology must be sincere, well- communicated and accompanied by a willingness to compensate those that have been wronged.

The American public is generous and often ready to forgive if the conditions mentioned above are met.   The public at large forgave John Kennedy for the Bay of Pigs fiasco but did not forgive Nixon for the Watergate scandal. President Kennedy took full responsibility for what happened but President Nixon did not. Nixon was defensive, secretive and deceptive.

John Kador, in an article published by Chief Executive Magazine, points out that according to a 2004 study of annual reports, stock prices of companies whose CEOs blamed poor performance on controllable internal factors were higher that companies whose CEOs put the blame on external factors.

As author Martha Kilpatrick once said:

“We are all on a life long journey and the core of its meaning, the terrible demand of its centrality is forgiving and being forgiven.”

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