‘A fault con­fessed is half re­dressed’

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Opinion -

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

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