Something that has gone missing in our current public and political culture is a little thing called “an apology.”

A case in point is the furor that erupted over Nancy Pelosi’s appointment at a hair salon in San Francisco this past week. 

If by chance you haven’t heard, a video of the House Speaker walking through eSalon in San Francisco without a mask and with wet hair was released to the public this week.  What made this otherwise innocent activity so controversial was the fact that the California governor’s edict has made it illegal for hair salons in San Francisco to offer any kind of services to anyone indoors due to the pandemic.  And here she was getting her hair done indoors, and not even observing the law which required wearing a mask! 

Adding to the vitriol is the fact that Pelosi was extremely critical of the fact that masks were not worn by the majority of the crowd who listened as President Trump accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for President last week.

Pelosi has been charged with not only hypocrisy but also elitism.  How is it that the Speaker of the House can get her hair done inside a salon when no one else in San Francisco can?

Pelosi’s response is typical in this age of the non-apology.  She was “set up,” she claims.  Someone, perhaps the owner of the beauty salon, was out to get her.

What has followed would be comical if it weren’t such an indictment against our political culture.

The hairstylist himself has issued a statement, employing, believe it or not, his attorney to make his claim that the hair salon owner set up Pelosi. 

The owner of the salon, whom the hairstylist claims approved his use of the salon to do Pelosi’s hair, has denied that it was a set-up, stating that the surveillance camera that caught Pelosi in the act had been in place for five years.

And of course, the master of the non-apology, the President, chimed in with, “Crazy Nancy Pelosi is being decimated for having a beauty parlor opened, when all others are closed, and for not wearing a Mask – despite constantly lecturing everyone else.”

So, everyone is blaming someone else.  But in all of this, the one thing that could quiet the storm, mend fences, even result in reconciliation and peace, is missing—a sincere apology from anyone.

Obviously, the hairstylist violated the law by making an appointment to do Pelosi’s hair.  Apparently, the owner, or her assistant—depending on who you believe—violated the law by approving the use of the facility for the appointment.  And Pelosi herself violated the law by making such an appointment, following through with it, and not wearing a mask during it.

The closest thing we have to an apology is Pelosi taking responsibility for believing the hairstylist when he told her that the salon was limited to one person at a time.

My question is how can relationships survive, and how can anyone ever hope peace will prevail, in a culture where “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” are sentiments that are never heard?

The whole scene reminds me of God’s interview with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after Eve, and then Adam, partook of the forbidden fruit.  Adam, confronted with his sin, blamed Eve, whom God had given him, and Eve, in turn, blamed the serpent, who tempted her.  However, instructively, in the end, God held all three responsible—each, along with their progeny, experienced a consequence or two that has continued to this day.

You’ve got to wonder, both in Pelosi’s case and in the Garden, what would and could happen if anyone not only accepted responsibility for his sin but also humbly offered to repent!

My own sinfulness, manifested by self-centeredness and thoughtlessness, requires multiple uses of “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” every week, and often almost every day.  Otherwise my relationship with my wife would not have survived.

So, how do good relationships survive in Washington D.C., or for that matter in a San Francisco hair salon, when we live in a “Cancel All Apologies Culture”?

The answer is that they don’t.  Pelosi and Trump haven’t had a decent relationship since a blow-up in the White House a couple years ago.  Their bitterness toward each other has overflowed into the media ever since.  And just imagine how the salon owner is getting along with a hairstylist who has backed Pelosi’s claim that the salon owner set Pelosi up? 

For each of us, though, the bigger issue is how we personally respond when we blow it.  Do we respond defensively, with counter accusations, blame-shifting, excuses and vain justifications?  Or do we humbly acknowledge a fact that none of us can deny:  that we are all sinners and we desperately need the grace and forgiveness of others as well as the Lord just to continue in right relationship to Him and others? 

After all, I John 1:9 tells us the only way we can continue in right relationship with God is that little matter of confession, which means that we agree with God about our sin – that He’s right and we’re wrong – with an attitude of repentance.  It’s only then that forgiveness is granted, according to this verse and many others in Scripture:  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

And what’s true with respect to God is often true with respect to our fellow man—a confessed repentance is necessary for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.  Maybe that’s the reason  James encourages us to “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16).  Maybe being right with God involves being right with others as well—so that confessions of sin along with “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” are vital in maintaining the loving relationships that we claim are the very essence of the Christian experience.

While we recoil from the “dysfunction” that is so evident in D.C., perhaps it’s also time to ask whether our own personal culture has a place for “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me.”

~ Jim Wallace or