Steve Harvey’s Miss Universe gaffe teaches us about the inadequacies of an apology and how hard it is to truly forgive, but we must!

I’m no big fan of beauty pageants but my patriotism prods me to occasionally watch to see how Jamaica will fare while my feminism pointlessly and silently screams ‘unfair’ when the more astute, charming candidates are left out of the top 5. But the ending of this year’s Miss Universe pageant was, to put it mildly, astonishing. While I was muttering about who was selected and the quality of the answers in the interview segment and so on, the unthinkable happened. Steve Harvey, one of my favourite guys on television, committed what seemed to be the cardinal media-beauty pageant sin. He announced the runner up as the winner and then after the customary crowning, tears of joy and blowing of kisses, had to reverse it, simultaneously toppling the ‘universe’ and wiping the icing from the corners of Colombia’s lips. The gaffe was incredible, unbelievable and stunning – ironically very much like the attributes sought after by beauty pageants. Nevertheless as the universe attempts to lift its proverbial jaw from the floor, I believe that Steve Harvey’s mistake presents an opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves, our humanity, making mistakes and forgiveness.

As a respected comedian, actor, author and talk show host, Steve Harvey is no stranger to television or to the pressures of pleasing a discriminating audience. He is also well-loved by just about everybody. So the occurrence of this mistakes tells us that sometimes even the most experienced, most loved and most qualified among us will make mistakes and the grownup, loving, humble, humane thing to do is to sincerely and quickly apologize and make amends where possible. Full marks to Steve Harvey for attempting to do that in what must have been the gutter of professional embarrassment. Sadly however, his apology, in spite of its honesty, will not take away the sting of embarrassment from Miss Colombia or replace the stolen shine and glory to Miss Philippines. The apology itself cannot and will not fix it. For those of us who find ourselves in the wrong, that is important to remember as we extend an apology. Yes it is good and appropriate to apologize and our hearts may actually be bleeding with remorse. But with the greatest of intentions it may not achieve the healing of the hurt that you desire. That is man’s decision and God’s work, if we allow Him.

I remember one of my children committing an act of disobedience and later feeling incredibly guilty and remorseful about it. She apologized profusely but when the disappointment on my face didn’t disappear, she kept repeating the apology over and over with greater and greater intensity as if it should change my disappointment. It didn’t and it usually doesn’t. I hugged her and told her that I accepted her apology but that I was still disappointed by her actions and would need to think about it further. Among adults it’s not much different. The fact of the matter is that while an apology may influence our decision to forgive, the decision to forgive comes from within us. We have to decide to forgive; it doesn’t just happen because someone is sorry. We have to decide to let it go and sometimes even when the offending party isn’t sorry. That’s an inner decision that requires grace from the Almighty.

Now what happens after we decide to forgive is also important. For the injured or affected party, it is key to determine if it was a mistake or a deliberate attempt to create harm. That determination is important since it determines how we treat the person going forward. Or does it? To me if it was an honest mistake and there was no intent to deliberately inflict harm then the offender and the offended could possibly move forward together in harmony. But once there was intent to create harm, it is likely to change the terrain for the way forward. For example if someone inadvertently crushed your toe on the bus or the train, you can let it go relatively easily. If the waitress at your favourite restaurant buck her toe and spilled the hot coffee on your white suit, you would be upset but still could move forward and go back to the restaurant next week and have some more coffee. If however she was careless, was on her phone, chewing gum and cracking jokes while serving your coffee then yes, forgive her, but by all means, she and the manager should know that this is not acceptable and changes in her conduct should be made immediately.

If the waitress willfully plans and schemes to spill the coffee on your white suit because you didn’t tip her last time or for whatever reason, then yes, by the grace of God still forgive her while seeking to ensure she is held accountable for her unprofessional evils deeds and that she is not allowed to carry out this wickedness again, if she so intends.

Of course this hot coffee example is an oversimplification of how harm truly affects us and the various ways to move forward. The more sinister of human deeds such as physical abuse, slander, abandonment and unfaithfulness are some of the big ticket hurts that are hard to overcome except for the grace of God. In all instances, we must choose to forgive since forgiveness is healing for our own souls as well. If we are truthful we will agree that there is no real peace without forgiveness. We gain nothing but heartache and physical sickness when we harbor and nurse hurts for years and years. We must let them go. At a time when we are closing out 2015 and stepping into a New Year, it is good to assess our heart condition and choose to forgive those who have hurt us as the first step and then work through how to move forward. Should you allow those persons to continue to walk with you in 2016? Let God’s Word be your guide.

Steve Harvey didn’t willfully choose to harm Miss Colombia or Miss Philippines, but he did and they along with their countries and the Miss Universe pageant are hurt and distressed by his unfortunate mistake. They should choose to forgive him. Should he work in television again? Of course, if you ask me! He has a track record of being a generous, affable, humorous TV personality with a lot of offer. I leave it to the Miss Universe owners to assess his gaffe and determine if he should host their pageant again. For those hurling all kinds of malicious injurious comments and pronouncements against him, I say don’t hit a good man when he is down. To Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines, I say forgive and don’t be afraid to appear on Steve’s talkshow to chat about your upcoming projects and bring true meaning to the proclaimed values of the crown – that of charity and world peace!

Shelly-Ann Harris is the Editorial Director of Family and Faith Magazine and author of the new children’s book We Don’t Hate Mondays Anymore. Check out her blog Send feedback or connect with Shelly-Ann on Twitter at @harrisshellyann.

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