Just say ‘I’m sorry’

Published: May 13, 2011
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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.