I have struggled with how best to convey my regret in letting so many down, and in that regard I realize this op-ed does not do justice to the process of saying “I am sorry.” A handwritten note or phone call would ultimately be more appropriate, but given the number of people I need to apologize to I write this to begin the journey of trying to get things more right with you and others.
It is true that I did wrong and failed at the largest of levels, but equally true is the fact that God can make good of our respective wrongs in life. In this vein, while none of us has the chance to attend our own funeral, in many ways I feel like I was at my own in the past weeks, and surprisingly I am thankful for the perspective it has afforded.
If you ever have the misfortune of being at this point, whether self-induced as in my case or not, it will give you an indeed amazing perspective on life and on what really matters. I read notes from someone who worked in a sandwich shop I ate at ten years ago, from 7th grade classmates, from state employees and more. While there have been lifetimes of lessons learned over the past weeks, three things most immediately come to mind.
One, forgiveness and grace really do matter. I used to believe that at an intellectual level, now it is at the level of heart. Over my life I have not given enough of either, and yet given all the ways in which my failings have come to light, I write to apologize for, in the most profound of ways, letting you and so many others down. In life it’s always the people closest to us that we hurt the most, and given my standing of public trust, I know I’ve hurt many across our state. I apologize for this, and more than anything would ask for your forgiveness going forward.
Two, life is indeed about way more than public standing or political views, it’s about recognizing that none of us are the arbiters of truth, that there are moral absolutes, and that there is a God to whom we will all report for our actions. My failure has been most glaring on this front, where no public apology can make wrong right. As a consequence, it is on this plane that I’ve grown the most over the past weeks – and where I’m committed to growing the most going forward.
I’ve been humbled and broken as never before in my life and as a consequence have given up areas of control in a way that I never have before – and it is my belief that this will make me a better father, husband, friend and advocate.
It’s in the spirit of making good from bad that I am committing to you and the larger family of South Carolinians to use this experience to both trust God in his larger work of changing me, and from my end, to work to becoming a better and more effective leader.
In this regard I think all that has transpired will be particularly relevant in the way I deal with the legislative body and other state leaders going forward. Micah 6:8 asks us to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly, and as I begin these steps into the last 18 months of this administration, it will indeed be with a more contrite and humble spirit.
I’ve realized that as much as I have and will continue to advocate for things ranging from restructuring to responsible spending to school choice, my approach needs to be less about my will and more about looking for ways to more humbly present the greater principles and ideas at play. It needs to be less strident and more about finding ways to work with legislative leaders to advance the ideas so many of us believe in. It means less time fighting the tide - and a greater awareness of the fact that God controls it. In working with a few alterations to my approach, I think this could be a far more productive last session than the one that would have been had the tragedy that has unfolded not occurred, and in turn, people’s lives can be made better.
Finally it is at your funeral that you in many ways not only can see most clearly the things that really matter in life, but where one gets the best glimpse of who your real friends are – and how much they matter. For that reason, I want to thank so many for their kindnesses and support over the years and for their kindness in this latest chapter in our book together as South Carolinians.
Mark Sanford is South Carolina Governor.