‘A fault confessed is half redressed’
I READ with interest Mary Schneider’s article “Sorry for being sorry” (But Then Again, July 17).
I agree that when a relationship is on the rocks, whatever you say or do is unlikely to change the situation. A grovelling apology would probably make the disinterested partner run away even faster.
No doubt, saying “I’m sorry” is unlikely to bring a dead relationship back to life, but when you have said or done something wrong, these are the words you must say if you do not want the other party to get angry with you.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I drove to the shops near my house and parked my car in a lot two doors away from the shop I wanted to go to. When I returned, ready to leave, I found another car closely double-parked alongside mine, blocking my exit. I thought the driver must have gone into one of the shops on a quick errand and would return very soon. So I patiently waited. And waited. Five minutes passed, still no sign of the car owner.
By now I was absolutely furious and decided to blow my car horn loudly in protest. But before I could do that, a middle-aged man came hurriedly up to me and said apologetically, “I’m very, very sorry that you had to wait for so long”, and then went on to explain why it had taken him such a long time to return.
It seems that he urgently needed to answer a call of nature as his bladder was on the brink of bursting. He ran to the corner coffee shop toilet thinking he could finish the business and be back in two minutes so it would be OK to double park. Unfortunately, the toilet was occupied and he couldn’t go anywhere else. Hence the delay.
To convince me what he said was all true, he showed me that he hadn’t even locked his car because the need had been so urgent. With another heartfelt “sorry”, he left.
A fault confessed is half redressed. After listening to his story, not only had I forgotten my earlier anger, I started to feel sorry for him instead – “I’m sorry” are really magical words.
Surprisingly, there are many people who find it hard to utter these few simple magic words that can effectively pacify tempers and go a long way towards strengthening bonds. An old friend of mine is a typical example.
I’ve known him for more than 20 years. And yes, in those two decades we have both knowingly or unknowingly said or done things that hurt each other’s feelings. But so far I’ve never heard him say “I’m sorry” for the times when he knew very well that he had offended me. Neither has he ever said “Thank you” after I have done him a favour. Nevertheless, I still treat him as my good friend because I find him helpful and sincere.
I had good manners drilled into me from young. Needless to say, my friend’s behaviour doesn’t go down well with me. I’m disappointed with him, but I would rather put the blame on his parents for the poor upbringing.
I suppose if the word “sorry” is repeated too often or “loosely” used when there is nothing serious enough to be sorry about, it could make one look less sincere or even annoying – yet it is by no means unacceptable. As the saying goes, a man’s hat in his hand never does him any harm.
Steven Chai Penang