A world where no one commits mistakes, a world where no one hurts anyone or is hurt by anyone, a world where everything that is right is done – what an easy world that would be! A perfect world! A utopian wish, indeed! The world in which we live is anything but close to it. Because we are imperfect living beings in this world, we are bound to falter. Hence, the need to apologize.
A FEW MYTHS THAT NEED BUSTING
- MYTH: Strive to please everyone. Then you will not have to apologise.
This is far from the truth. The needs, personalities and values of every individual are different. And so, there is almost always a gap between desirable behaviour and real behaviour. An old aged man may want you to sit by his bedside all day long. A six-year-old may want you to play with her as she sets up her dollhouse. Your boss may want you to work overtime everyday without extra pay. In all such circumstances if one strives to please all others, then s/he will end up fighting the guilt pangs and apologising to one’s own self. The truth is that you can never please everyone. It comes with costs. So, there is a need to apologise.
- MYTH: Apologising would only make you look small in the eyes of others.
Apologising never makes one look small in the eyes of sensible others. It takes a person of pure and courageous heart to admit one’s mistake and apologise. It lifts off the heavy burden from the heart. Rendering an apology helps earn respect. Of course, there will always be people who don’t think much of an apology and one may feel a loss of one’s self-esteem apologising to such people. Nevertheless, it builds a reputation for oneself as an honest apologiser.
- MYTH: You must apologise only to those elder to you in age or higher than you in authority.
This is a mere carry-over effect of conventional thought patterns of the yesteryears. Younger ones are at times made to apologise to older adults, while adults never think it amiss to commit the same mistakes. This creates a wrong precedence. Apologising to those younger in age or to subordinates sets up an example for them to follow. When children experience parents apologising to them, they learn to do the same. When couples apologise to each other, it removes hidden barriers and makes way for closer bonding.
- MYTH: Cowards apologise for fear of consequences. The brave don’t budge.
Well actually, its the other way round. The brave step forward to admit their mistakes and apologise even at the cost of ridicule or punishment. Don’t you think it would take courage to own up one’s wrong and say, “I have done it”? People who don’t apologise are the ones who can’t dare to face the truth about themselves or are apprehensive to pay the price that would come as a result of owning up.
- MYTH: Once you apologise or are apologised to, the relationship is restored.
While it is true that accepting the apology of someone or apologising to someone smoothens the creases, it does not necessarily restore the existing relationship. Restoration takes hard work. It may not happen at times because one or more of among those involved are unwilling. However, an apology rendered and an apology accepted make relationships at least tolerable.
THE LANGUAGE OF APOLOGY
One may apologise in person, verbally or send a letter of apology if the offended person is staying far away. Also, it is important to note that – apology has to be to God and to the offended person. At times it is easier to confess and apologise to God than look the offended person in the eye and beg pardon. However, it is necessary.
For an apology to be complete, the apology rendered by one has to be accepted by the other. In other words, when forgiveness by the offended follows an apology from the offender, the apology is complete.
However, this doesn’t always happen. At times, simply saying ‘Sorry’ is not enough. Take for example, a person who has been reprimanded by his boss for reporting late to office. If he apologises and continues to come late everyday, there is no way the boss can accept his apology. An apology has to be followed up by corrective action to be effective. The person in the example has to report on time every day so that he rectifies his errant behaviour.
Another example – A woman in an extramarital relationship owns up before her husband and begs his forgiveness. Simply saying, ‘I am sorry, I cheated on you’ is not the end of the apology. It has to be followed by an open discussion on the whole issue and what corrective measures she/they need to take to restore their relationship.
Difficulties in apologising arise because of –
- People are unable to apologise because of a sense of self-worth. Apologising releases oneself from the burden of guilt.
- At times people admit and apologise, but are hesitant to discuss the whole thing at length. This leaves behind unanswered questions and creates enough room for misunderstandings to trickle in. An open discussion at the cost of being uncomfortable gives the much-needed closure to the errant episode.
- Many people do not apologise because they fear rejection. However, continuing a relationship with a false base of trust is not a solid foundation for a lasting relationship.
- People do not apologise because they don’t want to accept responsibility. It is easy to shift the blame to someone else rather than point one’s finger to self. Learning to say ‘I am/was wrong’ shows the maturity of character.
We not only need to apologise but also need to forgive those who apologise to us without carrying a grudge on others. Our Creator God continues to forgive us each day. We need to forgive because we are forgiven.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – THE BIBLE