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Sorry; Still The Hardest Word

Forgiveness is not the easiest thing to grant, hence the truism, To err is human; to forgive, divine. But if you think forgiving someone for their transgressions against you is hard, just try saying SORRY. Until a few years back, the word did not even exist in my vocabulary, and now that it does, its still hard-earned and its said only in extraordinary circumstances. Half of the time I end up taking it back.

Recently the Courier-Journal, a news publication in Muhammad Ali’s hometown of Louisville issued a public apology to the departed boxing legend just a few days after his passing. In 1964 Ali, then named Cassius Clay, converted to Islam faith and in accordance with his new religion, legally assumed the new name Muhammad Ali.

Over the years though, this paper consistently refused to acknowledge his new name, for 50 solid years! Now he died, and suddenly they decide they will stop calling him by what he termed his ‘slave name’. 

My initial reaction when I saw the so called apology was, ‘what a joke!’ Though not a very big fan of apologies especially very public ones, I do not mind apologies, especially when they are genuine. I cannot ascertain whether the family accepted the apology and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. It is such things that make forgiveness a pie in the sky.

An apology must come from the heart; it must be genuine and should be accompanied by a show of remorse, even and explanation as to why the mistake was committed in the first place. But that is just my definition of apology and forgiveness.

Last year at Miss Botswana beauty pageant final, a young contestant earned the wrath of the nation after she gave a controversial answer to a question which had something to do with homosexuals. Without getting into the actual question and even her answer, it is only now that we getting to learn through social media that not only was the incident not forgotten but some people are yet to forgive her for her now infamous boo-boo. Memes have been created with her picture; actions clearly intended to sabotage her at this year’s pageant.

Apologising is never easy and it matters not whether one acknowledges wrong doing or not.. Granted, we should all take responsibility for our actions. As things turn out, research confirms the benefits of apologies for both victims and offenders. For victims, an apology is said to serve as a form of moral restitution.

When you apologise to a person you have offended, you convey a sense of

power to that person. The victim can accept or reject the apology, and can extend or withhold forgiveness.

As a result, the balance of power shifts from the offender to the offended and this, according to me, is where the problem with saying sorry comes from! Once you say sorry, and I know my pastor would not find this amusing, victims immediately assume a position of superiority.

They take the moral high ground and then it becomes their call whether to offer mercy or deny the guilty party pardon. The most dramatic ones may even wail or weep.

But our parents always taught us to say sorry, and over the years you learnt to say sorry to someone even if they stepped on your toes.

That is when humanity was still alive, when people were not vindictive and unforgiving. Given that apologies offer a relatively simple way to mend relations and heal wounds for victims and offenders, why do people refuse to apologise? Top in this group is couples and politicians.

Beyond escaping punishment, there may be some psychological benefits to standing one’s ground. I am for this approach. Nothing can be worse than feeling being vulnerable and at someone’s mercy at the same time.

Often forgiveness comes after the victim has had their way with you and in most cases, no forgiveness will be given, instead, your apology will be used against you and I think this is why even with compelling evidence, lawyers hardly advice accused person to plead guilty. It is because people and the law can be very vindictive and unforgiving! No one wants to feel vulnerable.

The act of apologising almost certainly restores power to the victim then also simultaneously diminishes the power of the transgressor. Back to the issue of the pageant contestant, one wonders why the issue is suddenly becoming a topic of discussion after a whole year! If I were her handler, an apology would be in order.

The worst thing that can happen to a 19-year-old is a social media backlash. Social media bullies are like maggots. Sometimes saying sorry even if you don’t mean it actually works.

Tumy on Monday



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