How to Rock an Apology (and Forgiveness) According to Saturday Night Live  

Don’t you love it when TV teaches you applicable life lessons? I could get them from reading beloved writers like Brené Brown or Eckhart Tolle, but it’s just so much more convenient for me when life lessons come in the midst of my late night TV watching.

If you missed the momentous occasion on SNL recently, here’s a recap.  SNL cast member, Pete Davis, made an ill-advised joke, mocking the looks of Congressman elect, Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw.  Dan Crenshaw lost an eye to an IED while serving in Afghanistan. After immediate backlash, the two came together the following week to address the joke and subsequently, showed us what healing after hurting another human can look like.

What did Pete do that was so healing? Here are a few pointers:

  • He took complete accountability with no excuses “Here’s what I did, I made fun of a picture of you. It was a poor choice.”
  • He sincerely apologized “I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
  • He pumped up the person he hurt “You didn’t deserve it. You are a hero.”  

The interaction could have stopped here, but Dan went on to show us what true forgiveness looks like:

  • He acknowledged and verbally accepted Pete’s apology.
  • He acknowledged the importance of forgiveness and seeing the good in each other.
  • He then stepped his forgiveness game up another notch when he spoke kindly and respectfully of Pete’s father, who died in 9/11.  

In my opinion, there is no way these two did not walk away from this interaction without positive feelings towards each other. This is what true healing is all about!

In clinical terms, Pete and Dan had what we therapists call a “corrective experience.”  This is an experience that occurs after a hurtful or traumatic experience that is “suitable to repair the traumatic influence of the previous experience.” This is what we marriage therapists are trying to help couples in our offices do after hurts have occurred.  We are trying to help them have a corrective experience to heal the hurtful one.

The media has repeatedly praised the interaction between Pete and Dan.  CNN called it “a sincere plea for unity.  It was a beautiful moment, unlike anything I can recall on SNL.”  Washington Post said of the apology: “It’s just that they’re usually not so straightforward, earnest and seemingly heartfelt.”  It turns out, as a culture, we respect those who can apologize and we admire those who can forgive.  It’s no wonder these two skills are hallmark features in healthy relationships.

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