For teenagers, one of the hardest lessons to learn is how and when to apologize. For teenage boys, it’s particularly challenging because ego can often get in the way of an apology.
Yesterday, my son came home from high school upset. After school, he had bumped into a girl he hadn’t seen in a few months and she told him she was mad at him. She had spoken about her eating disorder to a small group of friends, in which he had been included. However, my son repeated the information to a few of his girl friends. Of course, they went right back to the girl with the eating disorder and told her my son had told people about her issue.
When the girl confronted my son, he was horrified that he came across as a gossip and was naive in thinking that what he repeated wouldn’t be repeated again. He told me “Mom, I apologized to her. I told her what I had done was wrong, that I hadn’t been a good friend to her, and that I was sorry.”
I wasn’t proud that my son repeated what was told to him. Even if he was unaware it was said in confidence, he should have known better. However, I was proud that he apologized. All afternoon, he repeated to me that he hoped the girl would accept his apology and forgive him.
This morning, I watched on television as Los Angeles Times Columnist David Horsey apologized for writing that Trump’s chief spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders looks less like a sleek beauty and more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids’ games. His comments angered many people who called the columnist sexist and accused him of body shaming.
Horsey said he received some email and comments in support of what he wrote, but he realized he was wrong and told TV news personality Megyn Kelly, “Real men apologize.”
Today when my son came home I talked to him about how it takes a big person to admit a mistake and apologize. I told him to never let his ego get in the way of fessing up to a mistake. Research shows men aren’t socialized to apologize. Often, they think it shows vulnerability or weakness. Sometimes, they give mealy mouthed apologies that make a situation even worse, or they avoid an apology and it hurts a relationship.
If there is a silver lining in my son’s fiasco, it’s that he now understands the importance of keeping friends’ secrets. More important, it has made me hopeful that there’s a future generation of young men who embrace the “real men apologize” motto, recognize when they hurt someone’s feelings, and try to right a wrong — and parents who encourage them to do so.
I’d like to believe the experience of offering an honest apology will set my son on the right path for future relationships — and for life.