Understanding the Nature of Violations and Repairing Relationships

Understanding the nature of violations, whether they are core or non-core, and assessing the aspects of competence and integrity involved can guide the process of repairing relationships. While forgiveness and recovery are possible, it is essential to approach each situation with sensitivity and sincerity, acknowledging the depth of the violation and taking appropriate steps to rebuild trust.

Josh Ether

7/3/20202 min read

Repairing damaged relationships requires a deep understanding of the nature of violations and the factors that influence forgiveness and recovery. To illustrate this, let's examine some real-life examples that highlight different types of violations and their outcomes.

One such example is the story of Kaileen Sosa, a one and a half-year-old child who suffered permanent brain damage due to a medical mistake at Baptist Hospital. Despite the severity of the violation, the Sosa family chose not to sue the hospital. Instead, they became advocates for the hospital, primarily because of the way Baptist Hospital handled the situation and offered a genuine apology. This remarkable transformation demonstrates how the nature of the violation and the quality of the apology can impact the willingness to repair relationships.

Violations can be categorized into core violations and non-core violations. Core violations strike at the very essence of a relationship, while non-core violations are less critical. Understanding this distinction is crucial in determining the potential for recovery. Let's consider two high-profile cases: Eliot Spitzer and David Letterman.

Eliot Spitzer, the former Governor of New York, gained a reputation for his high ethical standards and clean image. However, it was revealed that he had engaged in the same kind of illegal activities he had been prosecuting. This core violation shattered the trust people had in him, leading to his resignation. Years later, even when running for a relatively minor office, he still faced the consequences of his past actions.

On the other hand, David Letterman, a late-night talk show host and comedian, faced allegations of sexual misconduct with interns and staff. Although this was a serious violation, Letterman managed to address the issue by making light of it through his comedy. He maintained his role as an entertainer, and the violation did not significantly impact his relationship with his audience.

Martha Stewart provides another interesting example. Accused of insider trading, she ended up going to prison. However, this non-core violation did not fundamentally alter the nature of her relationship with her audience. While incarcerated, her business ventures continued to thrive, and upon her release, she successfully returned to television and other endeavors.

In contrast, the violation committed by Arthur Andersen Accounting was a core violation that proved to be terminal for the company. Known for its integrity and trusted verification of accounting statements, the discovery of misleading documents and the subsequent shredding of evidence destroyed the company's reputation. Clients could no longer rely on Arthur Andersen for trustworthy accounting services.

When considering the repair of trust, it is important to note that even serious violations, like the one experienced by the Sosa family, can be repaired with a sincere apology and appropriate actions. However, this requires substantial effort and careful consideration. Both words and actions play a significant role in rebuilding trust.

Furthermore, violations can be viewed through the lens of competence and integrity. Competence violations occur when someone falls short due to a lack of capability, and these are generally more forgivable if efforts were made. On the other hand, integrity violations imply bad intentions and are harder to recover from, as seen in the case of Arthur Andersen Accounting, where the intentional cover-up severely damaged their reputation.