Just say ‘I’m sorry’

Published: May 13, 2011

Mistakes, apologies and forgiveness are all part of the perfect goodness of being an imperfect human.

Remember the time when your school teacher made you say sorry to a class fellow you got into a fight with, and it was he who had started it anyway! And then it all ended with your teacher saying, “Come on you two, shake hands now,” and you did shake hands. You made minimal hand contact with your erring buddy before quickly snatching away your hand. Perhaps you even rubbed your palm against your uniform trousers right after, just to signal to your rival that his dirty hand had now soiled yours too.

But thank God that moment of making a forced apology under duress is over. Now as a grown man or woman you can make choices yourself: You can still make apologies for mistakes done or duties forgotten, for being self-indulgent or for being negligent and feel totally empowered, because now you are the one making the informed and mature choice to face it like an adult.

If anyone thinks I am being preachy, stop right there. Hey, I am talking about something that will give you a big emotional high, catharsis or even nirvana, just by breaking the ice and performing the ultimate act of courage: saying, ‘I am sorry. I messed things up.’

I recommend you do it for purely selfish reasons, not for restoring the cosmic balance nor, God forbid, for the larger good of humankind or even for the person you are apologising to – naah.

I am not your school teacher. I am totally on your side, and I promise you this is a sure way to lose emotional weight; the emotional burden of unfinished business that all of us are getting crushed under throughout our lives.

In the valley of hope

An apology is an act of courage and also an act of hope; if you didn’t have hope of being forgiven or mending a relationship, your courage would flail too. Consider this. A little girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, survived the bombing of a Vietnamese town in 1972. The American pilot, John Plummer, who dropped bombs later suffered pangs of guilt over what he had done. He managed to meet her in 1996 and told her he was sorry. Most people would say that his act was unforgivable, that it was unrealistic to expect forgiveness from Kim, who lives with the scars that his bombing left on her body and mind. But she did forgive him. He was right to hope.

If you wanna do it, do it right

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all of us should wait 24 years before we render our apologies. When is the right time to do it? The sooner the better, experts tell us.

So once you make the decision, you follow these four simple steps.

1. Acknowledge your mistake and prepare the ground for what you have to say next.

2. Give an honest explanation, and be prepared to take a little heat from the other person.

3. Express remorse over it, and please do not just say a reluctant ‘Sorry’ like you did as a school kid! Be prepared to take a lot of heat here!

4. Offer to make amends. Ask “What can I do to make it up to you?” The worst is over now, and things can only get better from here on…

The beneficiary: The giver and receiver

I recently received an apology from an organisation to whom I had made a complaint as a customer. It felt good, not because I felt I was one up on them, but because I felt validated. The generous and mature apology has put me in an equally generous and forgiving frame of mind. Such is the power of positive actions.

All said and done, it does feel good to know that you have done your two bits worth to restore the cosmic balance. What are mistakes anyway, but “a natural outgrowth of spiritual evolution” (Iyanla Vanzant).

Mistakes, apologies and forgiveness are all part of the perfect goodness of being an imperfect human.

ayesha.fazal

Ayesha Fazlur Rahman

An Islamabad based education consultant and Fulbright Fellow from Harvard University. Fazal contributes to the Islamabad pages of The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Raza

    Its is a feel good blog my 5/5 . Thanks. Ayesah Fazlur Rehman :)Recommend

  • http://www.dudekichussian.blogspot.com Hamza

    Fine, i’m sorry.Recommend

  • Touheed

    Very very good :)Recommend

  • Happy Man

    Sorry should be said without any Justifications, than it means something.

    Ayesha Two Thumbs UP!!!!Recommend

  • apologizer

    very great,worth reading and acting upon.
    Th(i’m sorry),the sentence which resolves many complicts. We really need to throw our ego and learn the art of apologizing…Recommend

  • Tribune Reader

    I wonder if my neighbor will get an opportunity to read this? He so owes me an apology.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    I demanded an apology last year from Cathay Pacific for poor customer service and got ot, recetly i demanded one from atrium and got it, now just waiting for an apology from management at a local shppping mall for inapproproate word use and gesture. Lets sre if that comes my way, if staff and managment are having a bad day, customer who is not at fault should not get to be on recieving end.Recommend

  • parvez

    Somewhere in the write up you mentioned that you were not been preachy. When I finished reading that was the thing I remembered and I had to smile.
    My wife who went to an all girls school told me that if you said sorry in school, you would get the smug reply ‘ Sorry does not make a dead man alive. ‘
    Sorry I forgot to say that I liked your write up.Recommend

  • zaraafzal

    never read anything so well written by anyone on tribune … awosome :) Recommend

  • Naila Mir

    two thumbs up!!!Recommend

  • Shazia irfan

    Ayesha, nice topic to pick. Only people with a big heart can say sorry or accept an apology otherwise its just a word if you dont mean it . Very well written, pleasant and light article just like you..Recommend

  • Humanity

    A heart felt ‘sorry’ heals the soul that is wounded when one commits the mistake. Saying sorry is letting go the baggage that one ends up carrying otherwise. One feels so much lighter if the sorry is a genuine expression of remorse.The relationship strengthens, having made through another test of sincerity. It is a priceless, time tested, easy remedy to become a better human being.

    Thank you, Ayesha, for taking on this excellent topic. Stay with the train of thought and keep up the good work:)Recommend

  • AishaYunas

    Humans are only fallible. We should understand the fallibility of humans being prone to be erroneous.

    “To err is human to forgive is divine”. Mistake is something that humans cannot escape from but there is a solution to every problem. The word sorry is an expression of regret and can play a vital role in rectifying the mistakes and bridging the gap.

    Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said, “Every son of Adam makes mistakes and the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent”. (At-Tirmidhi)

    Among 99 names of the Almighty Allah one name is “Al Ghafur(The Most Forgiving)- Who says that if you forgive others then He will forgive you on the day of Judgment.
    Almighty Allah says in the Quran:

    [Invite all to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His path, and who receive guidance.] (An-Nahl 16:125)

    Taking the idea forward….. the sooner the better… don’t take too long in forgiving others that maybe you come across a situation in your life where you have to say sorry to them ; then don’t hesitate to say sorry. Good job done Ayesha! Recommend

  • Aisha Yunas

    Humans are only fallible. We all should understand the fallibility of humans being prone to be erroneous.

    To err is human to forgive is divine”. Mistake is something that humans cannot escape from but there is a solution to every problem .The word sorry is an expression of regret and can play a vital role in rectifying the mistakes and bridging the gap.

    Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said, “Every son of Adam makes mistakes and the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent”. (At-Tirmidhi)

    Among 99 names of Almighty Allah one name is “Al Ghafur” (The Most Forgiving)- Who says that if you forgive others then He will forgive you on the day of Judgment. Almighty Allah says in the Quran:
    [Invite all to the way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His path, and who receive guidance.] (An-Nahl 16:125)

    Taking the idea forward….. the sooner the better… don’t take too long in forgiving others that maybe you come across a situation in your life where you have to say sorry to them ; then don’t hesitate to say sorry. Good job done Ayesha! Recommend

  • Sahar Dar

    It takes courage though :)
    A very positive thought.. keep it up!Recommend

  • Mehreen Hasan

    Letting go of your ego and the first one to say sorry and end the fight takes great courage. The gesture should be appreciated. Recommend

  • Aaminah

    i like the way you’ve put something that usually stays ignored unintentionally or people give a damn, thinking their big metallic Egos would shatter.. Well, my self realization chamber rings an alarm notifying something went wrong..And, i appreciate sometimes words do the trick.. Ohh! Though it takes courage.Recommend

  • danish

    Ayesha it is awesome! i realy love the way you have write about, and the thoughts which is very rare in our society….

    I must say : I am sorry my sweety….be sure it will not happen again!Recommend