My 2008 book The Art of the Public Grovel has been making a bit of a reappearance in the last couple of days. Check out “America’s Confessor is Back in the Spotlight” (Oprah, not me, in case you’re wondering); “Coming Clean: Lance Armstrong and Forgiveness“; and “Lance Armstrong’s doping confession: An American ritual,” in the Washington Post. (Which you can also read in Russian, should you be so inclined.)

Public confession is rooted in American evangelicalism, and Americans have been willing to forgive famous wrong-doers as long as their admission follows a few rules, Susan Wise Bauer argued in her book “The Art of the Public Grovel.”

That it’s very public is one of them. Everyone wants to be able to witness it.

Another is that it can’t only express regret. The confession must be a clear statement of guilt, an admitted sin for which the person is sorry. Fall short of that, according to Bauer, and forgiveness is much less likely.

That’s the Kansas City Star, speculating on whether Lance Armstrong can pull off a successful comeback. Judging from his incoherent, dimwitted performance last night, I’m guessing not. But I plan to watch the second part of the interview tonight to see whether he manages–somehow–to change my mind.

Showing 4 comments
  • Happy Elf Mom

    Yes. There is a big difference between “my bad” and, “I am sorry for (action) because (reason). It was wrong and I hope you will forgive me. I was (selfish, unkind).”

    PS We homeschool and love your Story of the World series.

  • Constermama

    He’s appearing dimwitted and incoherent because his life is a lie. He can no longer control or juggle all the jumble in his brain. i don’t think he knows how to be honest. It seems he’s still mentally trying to decide what part of his life of lies to still cling to while trying to answer Oprah’s questions. Sorting it out and responding is multi-tasking at a level which leaves him incoherent and dimwitted. He’s also grovelling because his indignation and anger doesn’t serve him any longer.

  • Rachelle

    I thought of you while watching the interview and my husband suggested Lance needed to have read your book to prep for his interview. He clearly didn’t. Total fail.

    And thank you for blogging. Greatly value to contributions to classical education and homeschooling.

  • D Bundy

    What a sad man. Great interview. Now I want to go buy yet another Susan Wise Bauer book.

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