Recently, I was asked to comment on BBC radio Kent as I often am. The subject was making mistakes and the impact that can often have if you’re in the public eye. There had been an unfortunate incident where a cricketer had tampered with the ball. His apology both on television and on social media, came because of recognising the impact his mistake had on his reputation, the sport, and the wider public.
He isn’t the only one to have risked a lot and been severely humiliated as news of his error became known. Mohammad Asif, former bowler of Pakistan, admitted he had been to jail in 2010 for spot fixing and Mohammad Amir who was caught for bowling deliberate no balls would no doubt also say, “every human being has made a mistake”. The issue perhaps, is the size of the mistake and the impact it has.
So, what makes people do this? Is it the pressure of achievement and the struggle to maintain this that encourages, almost traps, a person into taking risks they might not otherwise take? Possibly. It could also be as in the case of Anthony McPartlin, that something else is driving them as Ant’s battle with addiction has shown in the news recently. He was caught in an accident he caused whilst driving more than twice over the limit. His fine of £86,000 was clearly meant to give him a shock and impact his attitude. This is a classic psychological trick to act as a deterrent – make the fine big enough and the culprit will not want to do it again. https://www.hellomagazine.com/celebrities/2018041647863/ant-mcpartlin-breaks-silence-after-drink-driving/
I was saddened to see Antony’s misery with all of this though. His picture in the recent press clearly showed how mortified he was but the reality, much as he now realises, it, is that his personal humiliation had to become a public one, not only because of the way our press jumps on stories like this, but also because he has been such a pinnacle of morality thus far. His double act with Declan has always avoided smutty jokes, criticism of others (although his partner was always taken targeted sarcasm very well), and patronising remarks, so that they have both succeeded on their own merits rather than on the back of satirical disregard for the feelings of others.
Doubly hard then to see him brought so low by his troubles. If I had any way of meeting him I would dearly love to help him because he’s a human being, he’s in pain, and I am very sorry about it. Unfortunately, I don’t know him and arguably he needs support for a long period. My feeling though is his error is different in nature from some of the other mistakes I’ve described.
I wonder if there is a difference between someone who decides to cheat, whether at sport or at work, and someone who is caught in a messy situation they feel ill equipped to cope with or handle well. Whilst it might be easy for me to say this, I have mentioned the idea of having a ‘toolkit’ for life before and written about it in an earlier blog https://firthconsulting.net/handling-negative-emotions-is-a-life-skill.
The ability to cope with emotional turmoil and handle pain is key to managing your life so that you can navigate through these difficult times and NOT cause havoc in the process. Seeking support is critical to this rather than leaning on solutions that are not in fact, solving anything. Instead, they are adding to the mess which leaves you at risk of getting others involved (as in the case of having his mum in the car). The fact that he hit someone which could have resulted in far worse damage also added to the need to have him publicly apologise because he had let people down.
This is where there are similarities with other celebrities who have gone before him; that they too have been required to apologise in public otherwise they fail to appreciate how many of us like them, follow them on twitter etc, or in some cases positively idolise them. Perhaps they don’t want to be put on a pedestal, they certainly don’t ask to be and it’s our choice to treat them so, but Ant has taken responsibility for what happened, and his remorse is meant to buy him the time to withdraw and seek treatment.
Declan may in fairness, struggle with this too as he must shoulder the programs they present, alone, and no doubt the endless questions. This is the hidden damage mistakes like these often have, the impact on family and friends as they try to ‘stand by’ the individual concerned. In Declan’s case this isn’t hard as Ant and he are genuinely friends and have been for years, but in the case of a wife who has been let down by her husband, parents of a badly behaved but adult son or daughter, and other situations, the overriding emotion can be shame masked by the determination to ‘put on your public face’.
Perhaps then when we come to examine our own frailties and errors the mistakes of such public offenders help us because it makes our own faults or failures more acceptable. “If someone so significant gets it wrong then maybe it’s ok if we do too?’”
If we are to learn from any of this though, there may be some conclusions we can draw that can help: –
1. Examine the mistake for significance and size. Perhaps rank it out of a score of 10 where 10 is disastrous and recognise how genuinely bad it is
2. Then rank how it makes you feel. If you are truly remorseful and didn’t plan the error or realise how important it was then others tend to be forgiving
3. What is the impact of it? How many people does it affect and how badly? If you can assess what you’ve done and find the relevant individuals, you can apologise or make it up to them somehow
4. What can you do to make amends? Beyond an apology is there a gesture you can make? It isn’t always about money, perhaps you can do something useful for them, help them somehow or repair something if you broke it.
5. Recognise when to withdraw. If you’ve apologised, done all you can but repeating it won’t help then decide to learn from it, leave them alone and give the situation some space. Unless necessary avoid repeating yourself as it can sound disingenuous and could be thought to lack true feeling
6. What happens if they won’t forgive? Letting someone down can be painful for both parties but ‘holding on’ to this for months or even years doesn’t reflect on you, it becomes about them. You can ask someone to forgive you, but you cannot demand it and in some cases the issue is just too big for them. In this instance you might have to accept it and aim to forgive yourself. Obviously, I’m generalising here but I don’t believe you’re meant to torment yourself for years if the error was something reasonable in size and impact, but you’ve done all you can to repair it.
7. Seek help from a support network, counsellor, or online forum if you need advice as in some cases it can be an equal error to try and carry on regardless when you know in your heart you are likely to make bigger mistakes in future. This would be the case with alcohol addiction where there is an obvious danger of causing damage to someone, or something, else.
There are some situations in which your efforts may come to nothing or you may not want to apologise or repair it. Breakdowns in relationships with friends and/or family are not automatically the same as mistakes where you desire to repair things. Some people are very unhappy with each other, they have done too much damage through things they’ve said or done in the past, or they are not right for each other now.
When someone you should love but don’t feel loving towards has let you down too many times then it may feel wrong to you to repair it. No amount of writing about it here will cajole you in to reviewing this. In fact I’m not sure I’m asking that as my own experiences show, at times the breakdown in relationships needed to happen and I’m not ready to change that. Past friendships have suffered equally through errors I’ve made as with the blunders they’ve made, but the end result has been a breakdown nonetheless. Perhaps this is what matters though, at the end of the day I haven’t wanted that to change, so the impact of not doing something has no price or cost for me. Maybe I need to add an 8th recommendation to the previous list and that would be:
8. Assess the price of NOT doing something to decide if humility now will pay off for a long time to come. You don’t have to agree with everything you do in life but that depends on your ability to…………
9. See the bigger picture: respecting the feelings of others is important and treats them as significant. They don’t have to be as important to you but if it is so to your mother say, then apologising to a sibling can be worth it! There is a trade-off here, a return on your investment, as it keeps someone you love happier because of it.
Actions and words can be short, but the impact can be long and that is equally true whether you decide to apologise, or you decide not to – just be aware it’s a choice and whatever you decide, try to make sure you can live with yourself.
My motto is to treat others with grace and dignity in whatever I do. If I can follow that most of the time then I’m doing ok
Do let me know your own experiences, all the best, Sue