damaged(?) control

We are flawed creatures. We make mistakes. As a friend of mine oft opines, “We can’t fix ‘human’.” Indeed, none of us lives an error-free existence.

Thus, from time to time, all of us need to say or do something to apologize for something – sometimes great, sometimes small, sometimes conscious, sometimes inadvertent – that we have said or done that we ought not. At our best, our honest intent to make amends for our blunders and, even more, to mend our ways arises from our earnest need to repair a breach in our relationships. At our not so best, we, in our native human self-interest, are motivated, driven by our desire “to save face” (a wonderful rather ancient expression related to our believing ourselves respectable, presentable to others, thus, able to show our faces in public). In this latter case, our need is to manage the negative effects of our behaviors on others, especially those from whom we derive benefits. Here, I think, damage control (initially a reference from the maritime industry concerning emergency procedures to prevent the sinking of a ship) becomes damaged control.

A politician at a campaign stop, speaking sotto voce to an off-camera aide, utters a snide aside regarding an opponent; the vilifying remark carried over a thought to be dead microphone. A spokesperson, after several days of inexplicable silence, offers a dispassionate denial that the supposed offensive speech can be interpreted as reflecting negatively on the speaker, one, we are reminded, who possesses a longstanding and impeccable record of public service.

The cyber-network of a major American picture company is breached, allegedly by agents of a foreign country angered about the projected Christmastide release of a comedy film critical of the regime. One of the fruits, fallouts of the malicious hacking is the circulation of the private email of company heads, some of which contains disparaging comments about a number of well-known Hollywood luminaries and Washington political figures. In response to the embarrassing leaks, the CEO repeatedly apologizes, asserting that the language of the e-missives does not reflect the nature of the company or the character of the correspondents.

A star quarterback of a major southern state institution of higher learning is accused of rape; the process of allegation and review taking two years to wend its laborious way to the conclusion that the credibility of the charge is impossible to substantiate conclusively. During the period of investigation, the athlete is blamed for other lesser legal infractions and public, personal indiscretions; all of which, in the judgment of fellow players and students, coaches, and legal counsel, do not reflect fairly the character of their friend, player, and client.

I seek not to impugn the integrity of anyone, especially those I do not know, hence those whose attitudes and intentions I dare not guess. (Thus, for me it is important, in referencing current news stories, not to name names.)

That said I, undeniably, am a flawed creature. I make mistakes. My human error-full existence is unfixable. Thus I try to acknowledge when I have said and done things that I ought not, and when I have not said and done things that I ought.

Still, I wonder. Suppose I was a more public figure, one subject to greater public scrutiny and comment. When I err, would I, in full damage(d) control mode, say that my words and actions did not reflect accurately my character? Or would I dare confess, “Fullest truth be told…”

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2 thoughts on “damaged(?) control

  1. This is such an interesting topic. I typically anxiously await the press conference after some embarrassing event to see how the affected person will handle damage control. I find myself rating how well I think they handled the situation, and most of the time I rate them quite low, as having missed the mark… I rarely see character addressed in any of these sessions.. and maybe it is because most don’t take the time to say that we are all flawed and make mistakes and do wrong. Some damage control sessions just blames others or disavows all knowledge of any intentional wrongdoing in the event. Maybe if they’d actually stand up and say something like “to err is human” that would be a much better start and I’d give higher marks for those mostly pitiful damage control sessions. Thanks for reminding us that the right words can go a long way towards loving forward, and even towards forgiveness.

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  2. I agree with your assessment of most damage control sessions. Again I do wonder if I was in that place of having to speak publicly following my blunder, error, gaffe, or worse, what would I say? Indeed, what would I want to say? I am not and cannot be so very sure.

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