What is a real apology?


Up until a few years ago most people thought Domino’s pizza was garbage. The company was losing business, closing stores, and failing fast.

Then they did something risky. They admitted how much they sucked. They ran an ad campaign that basically said “Hey, we know everyone hates our pizza! We know you think the crust tastes like cardboard! We hear you and we’re fixing it. We’ve entirely changed how we make our pizza because we don’t want to suck anymore.”

It worked. Two days after the commercial started airing their sales were already growing. By week three they were running out of pepperoni. IT WAS A HUGE HIT.

Why did this work so well?

Domino’s CEO, J. Patrick Doyle, put it this way:

If somebody is going to convince you they’re going to change it has to start with them absolutely owning the problem in the first place.

Shout out to the CHANGE AGENT podcast for telling this story about Domino's.

True repentance starts with owning the thing you’re needing to change.

Over the last several months we’ve seen a LOT of men in Hollywood giving some pretty bogus “apologies” for sexual misconduct. They deny, they downplay, they blame the culture, they point fingers. It always feels like their main goal in responding to accusations is to save their own neck.

Except for Dan Harmon, creator of Community and Rick & Morty. Everyone needs to learn from Domino’s and Dan Harmon (this is a weird sentence I never thought I’d write).

In January Harmon was accused of sexually harassing one of his employees while working on Community. He addressed it on his own podcast that week and spent 7 minutes OWNING THE PROBLEM.

Here’s an excerpt:

And I lied to myself the entire time about it. And I lost my job. I ruined my show. I betrayed the audience. I destroyed everything and I damaged her internal compass. And I moved on. I’ve never done it before and I will never do it again, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do it if I had any respect for women. On a fundamental level, I was thinking about them as different creatures. I was thinking about the ones that I liked as having some special role in my life and I did it all by not thinking about it. So, I just want to say, in addition to obviously being sorry, but that’s really not the important thing, I want to say I did it by not thinking about it and I got away with it by not thinking about it. And if she hadn’t mentioned something on Twitter, I would have continued to not have to not think about it, although I did walk around with my stomach in knots about it, but I wouldn’t have had to talk about it.

Read the whole thing here

It was a real apology. It wasn’t a PR move. And it was effective. After listening to the episode, the writer who accused him tweeted:

His apology brought healing and change because of Dan Harmon chose to be vulnerable.

Andy Savage is a pastor in Tennessee who addressed his own past sexual misconduct during a Sunday morning service. The New York Times did a HEARTBREAKING video with the woman Savage took advantage of back when she was just a teenager and he was her pastor. They get her reaction to his apology and it makes you realize how weak it really is. 

WATCH THE VIDEO (I’ll warn you that there’s one line in the video that is pretty graphic)

At first I just wanted to write about the church in general. I wanted to write "we need to be better at this" over and over and over. I wanted to question if we were setting a culture where people respond in church with quick PR statements to make themselves feel better or if true repentance was the norm. I wanted to write stuff like "if we understand the gospel and how crazy grace really is" and so on and so on.

But then I realized I wanted to focus on that because I didn’t want to have to examine myself. I’ve hurt people with my words and the stuff I’ve done. I’ve been selfish and stupid. I’ve sinned. BIG sins. How do I talk about them with myself, my closest friends, with God, or with the people I’ve hurt?

Have I made real apologies? Am I owning the problem so I can make a real change? Am I willing to be messy and seek forgiveness?

Do I need to be better at this? Do I need to be better at this?

Is a pizza company better at seeking forgiveness than a Christian?