Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sorry apologies

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 48; the forty-eighth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
"Say 'Sorry' to Vicky"

I had just about finished yelling at Vicky, and was mentally prepared to stop seeing him as an imp of Satan and start seeing as a normal boy like myself when my dad, who was passing by, had to poke his nose into our affairs. On the instant, the normal boy vanished from my vision and the imp of Satan returned. After all, there was no point in getting angry with your dad. You could hardly express it to him - well, I suppose you could but the repercussions were likely to be VERY unpleasant.

"Didn't you hear me? Say Sorry"

"Sorry", I spat at Vicky.

The word MAY mean an apology but I ensured that it sounded like one of those swear words that adults so love to use when angry. I glared at Vicky and, if looks could kill, he would have been toast.

THAT is the funny thing. Just as you are really feeling sorry, an adult pokes his nose in and, by making you say 'Sorry', makes you stop feeling sorry. It took about a week more to normalize relationships with Vicky, no thanks to the fact that he spent three of those days gloating about my saying 'Sorry' to him. But, eventually, I stopped seeing those horns on his head, that forked tongue and sharp canines, the tail with an arrow-head at the end and a pitchfork in his hands.

THAT was my first step in 'maturing'. For adults, form is more important than substance. In other words, it is more important to apologize than to really feel apologetic. In fact, going forth in life, I realized that it was absolutely unnecessary to actually feel apologetic about anything as long as you can apologize gracefully. Not that realizing it helped me. Since I can do nothing gracefully, I could not merrily do whatever I wanted and just apologize my way through life.

(Incidentally, the other thing about adulthood, I realized is that, if a person once appears like an imp of Satan, he NEVER reverts to becoming a normal person in their vision - whereas an angel can, quite readily, exchange his wings and harp for the horns etc and a pitchfork. Even if that person saves your life, it would only be to prove that he was superior to you, of course, and not because of any good intent. If anything, anyone belonging to his community, race or whatever also acquire nebulous horns, canines and tail, thanks to him. And they are more likely to change from 'nebulous' to 'concrete' than the other way around.)

That got me thinking about whether we say 'Sorry' when we mean to tender an apology. (No! No! Not when I was a boy. Now!) As far  as I remember, I have said 'Sorry' easily when I did not really mean it and got tongue-tied when I did. You know what I mean - you brush the shoulder of a stranger by accident on the road and 'Sorry' comes tripping off your tongue by conditioned reflex. It is not that shame at the transgression burns your soul. If anything, anger may burn if the other guy also does not say, 'Sorry' or, at least, 'It's alright' or some such thing.

Take the time when I gestured magnificently (I ALWAYS gesture magnificently!) and knocked an expensive bottle of French wine on the costly carpet in a friend's house. Do you think I was really sorry about the spreading wine stains on that carpet. You bet I was. Do you think I said 'Sorry'?

I wanted to, alright, but there was this strangling sensation in the throat and someone had lit a fire inside the skin of my face, with specific attention to the area around my ears. I cleared my throat, giggled inanely and said, "Oh! I am always like this. Totally butter-fingered", by way of apology. So, my friend and his wife gathered that I was blaming them for not knowing enough to keep the carpet out of harm's way, and for not settling for cheap plonk when they invited me home. THAT, apparently, did not seem like much of an apology to them.

I know! To say 'Sorry' when you feel sorry is necessary, considering that people are, unfortunately, deficient in telepathy and are unable to see HOW sorry you feel. To feel sorry, when there is reason to be, should be a part of your character, else you belong somewhere below the animals. THEY have no motives, other than feeding and procreating, so they tend to do nothing that needs feeling apologetic. To think that saying 'Sorry' is a sufficient substitute for feeling sorry - even where you are not merely saying it as a matter of good manners - is the peculiar attribute of 'civilized' humanity.

They say knowing what needs to be done is half the battle won. THAT does not really console me, since I despair of winning the other half. I would probably end up in the position of the guy, who jumps across a deep well and succeeds in making a jump that takes him halfway!

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64 comments:

  1. You said it Suresh--today form counts for more than substance.Personally i see no point in forcing this word out of the mouth of someone who has hurt/insulted me.If that person is genuinely remorseful s/he will not repeat it and if s/he is not, then this one word has no significance.

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    1. I have always found that 'Say sorry and shake hands' business funny :)

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  2. Now I say sorry sometimes...mostly out of sarcasm or just because I am meant to. Rare are the moment when I mean it. In my profession, I have to apologize a lot!!! To the judge. Sigh!

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  3. nice one.. keep sharing more and more awesome updates.. keep penning down

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  4. Well written. Overuse of any word/action (saying sorry/forcing to say 'sorry') de-sensitzes us. When it really matters - we generally express the apology without words.

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    1. When you have really said/done something that needs apologizing for, you feel too shamed to be articulate :)

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  5. I say sorry sometimes when I don't mean it..It specially happens when I'm forced to say it...And when I really feel sorry I think of ways to make it up to the one I wronged...Ofcourse I sometimes say it sarcastically too just to make the other person feel bad..*I'm a bad bad person*!!! :D

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    1. Hahaha! My point exactly, Naba :) We say 'Sorry' ONLY when we do not really feel sorry :)

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  6. Your post resonated so well with me, more so given that I rarely feel apologetic about anything I do, even the genuine mistakes themselves :)

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    1. If you acknowledge something as a genuine 'mistake' Jairam I rather doubt that you did not FEEL apologetic about it :) The ones who do not feel apologetic are normally the ones who do not acknowledge their mistakes at all.

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  7. "To think that saying 'Sorry' is a sufficient substitute for feeling sorry - even where you are not merely saying it as a matter of good manners - is the peculiar attribute of 'civilized' humanity."
    So true. How people rattle off 'Soooo sorry!' just for the sake of it and don't really mean it.

    Well written! Good luck for BAT! :)

    My Entry for BAT48

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    1. I see that in too many people - when you merely say sorry without feeling it, you have no intention whatsoever of not repeating the mistake. All you would do is repeat the sorry :)

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  8. Haha ! Sorry getting stuck in your throat.. right you are. It comes out effortlessly when we least mean it and develops claws and buries itself in your throat when you really are feeling sorry.
    The problem is there isn't any way to communicate the 'feeling' sorry part, other than hoping the person really understands that you are feeling sorry.Its a sorry state to say 'sorry' when you aren't really feeling sorry :)

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    1. Haha! Ash! Claws INDEED :)

      Yup, it is a sorry state to not at all feel sorry and feel that saying sorry is enough when you have done something to feel sorry about.

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  9. We have taught our 3 year old twins to say sorry whenever they fight & I often observe them while doing that. Most often they scream Sorry angrily. But there are some rare occasions when they are really apologetic. I didn't like this sorry business initially but that seems a better way to deal with twins :-)
    & yes.....some times when you are apologetic & say sorry but its not responded to, then you feel angry. So I guess....this Sorry Business is quite complicated from toddlers to adults. But that was one great article & deserve three cheers. ATB for BAT

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    1. The point is that you do not merely tell children to say "Sorry" but also tell them WHY- later - so that they know that they ought to feel sorry about that behavior. Too often, I find adults interfering without realizing the dynamics of the interactions between the children :) If you pick on your child when he is not in the wrong, then he is hardly likely to learn anything except that saying sorry will satisfy the world :)

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    2. Very true.....I think that's what they are learning. I need to find a better way or leave it to themselves. Need to escape this need for satisfying the world around. Thank you for throwing some different light on this subject. BTW I love the humor in most of your posts. Here is my entry.
      Love, Apology, Death & Wedding

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  10. Takes me back to my college days, my professor had a standard dialogue - 'Sorry, what sorry, does sorry make a dead man alive? Do not abuse the word, when you have no remorse in your heart!'

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    1. Precisely, Mahesh! I only add that if you DO have remorse in your heart, it still needs saying because the other person is unlikely to be a telepath :)

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  11. Hmmmm.....actually women do this apologising thing better...'I'm sorry, but it was YOUR mistake'....! be sure that the axe will fall heavily on your head! :-P

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    1. I know - why do you think I did not get married? :) I have a rooted objection to axes falling on my head :)

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    2. I realized the absurdity of the comment as soon as i hit 'enter' and then all I could do was grin and feel foolish!! :) :)

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    3. Never mind! I have a sister to keep me abreast of what happens in interactions with women :P

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  12. Exactly and when we really feel it we don't say it like when the system software at my hoe faced some bad weather, I missed your posts and was sorry for that. But did I said 'sorry ' to you? Naa.. should I ! :P

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    1. Hahaha! As long as you continue visiting my blog when you can, I will dispense with the apology :)

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  13. Beta sorry bolo is the worst that we inflict on our kids. I agree that feeling sorry is more important than saying sorry. But if we don't tell someone that we are indeed contrite, how will they know?

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    1. I think I said that too, Rachna, that saying sorry IS important BUT saying sorry as a substitute for feeling sorry is unacceptable.

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  14. heart felt sorry is the real sorry

    Letter Of Apology

    I have followed your blog

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  15. As a practice I always say sorry when I know I am in the wrong... sometimes my expressions say it for me... but it is very important to let the person we have hurt, know... however close the person might be, i try not to take them for granted. As far as the times when I might not have done anything wrong and am expected to apologize are concerned.. i quite simply dont.. I try to reason it out, if they dont get it, their problem.. not mine .. no ? :)

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    1. Yup! Normally it is.

      I find that sometimes what we intended saying and what got communicated may be at variance. If I think the other person is offended, I check to see if there was something offensive to them. If they do not take me up on it, then there is no real point in pursuing. After all, one cannot spend a lifetime walking on eggshells :)

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  16. Not many know the difference between saying sorry and feeling sorry. And unless you mean it, a thousand apologies mean nothing.

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    1. Quite true, Alka! I find that true of most people too

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  17. I agree! I rarely say sorry when I actually feel it! I tend to try to make it up to the person rather! It is also true that this word almost always pops out of my mouth when I don't mean it - like the times when I take more than necessary space in train and bus trying to prevent anyone from taking the seat next to me!

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    1. Something about actually feeling sorry clutches at the throat and does not allow the word to come out :)

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  18. So much to write about "sorry"- amazing. I remember watching an interview of Arun Shourie. He said Gandhiji's definition of apology was that one does not repeat the mistake/ blunder. Saying, for him, did not mean anything. I agree with you that the unsolicited intervention by adults only complicates the matter. Good post.

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    1. YES - and, unless you really feel sorry, it is unlikely that you will resolve not to repeat your blunders

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  19. If get a rupee everytime I say sorry...i would be a millionaire in a week. :P. Sorry is at the tip of my tongue. I don't even think about it or feel sad for saying it....as long as I could avert an argument or a fight.

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  20. I have become so used to hearing sorry from strangers even when they are not fault that I'll have a tough time readjusting to people who think its beneath their dignity to apologize.

    I think saying sorry even when you might not mean it is a good start.

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    1. Quite Purba ! The problem is that it is not a start for most people, it is all there is to remorse :)

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  21. Do you rememeber that Farhan Akhtar Dialogue in Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara. "Jab tak dil se na nikale sorry mat bolo" I feel exactly like that ! Sorry is just a word these days with no feeling attached !

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    1. Perfect quote! When it is easiest to say 'Sorry' is when you mean it the least, though. And human beings shy away from doing the difficult thing - but it needs doing.

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  22. Very nice article Suresh. I believe apologizing depends on whether the harm caused is tangible or intangible meaning the example of wine, its tangible - sorry would have come handy to me also out of sheer embarrisment of the eyes staring at me. But for the intangible part where may be i am wrong on a point or have hurt someones feelings I would say sorry only if i meant it and would never repeat it. The last bit is very important for me - to say sorry or accept sorry only if i know i truly mean and will not repeat the same mistake (this does not apply to accidently or unintentionally done mistakes :)) But i really liked reading this, very nice, apt and thought provoking.

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    1. The point about the wine was only to underscore that we find it difficult to say 'Sorry' when we really feel it.

      THAT was my point too - remorse is the only thing that makes saying 'Sorry' worth the while. The saying 'Sorry' IS important even when you really feel remorseful, since the other person may not know your feelings unless you say it.

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  23. Ah! The magical word of Sorry. The word that a lot of us say but usually never mean it. But I agree with Purba to an extend - sometimes saying sorry is a good place to start. Much better than that "if looks could kill" stare :) The usage of "sorry" in my dictionary also replaced the word "excuse me" occasionally during my time in London, especially during rush hour on the underground trains. When I was still a newbie there, I used to say Excuse me and wait for people to let me pass. So I stood for minutes, which by their metro/underground standards, would mean that I'd have to wait for a good half hour before I got a chance to pass. But once I was for experienced, the excuse me and the waiting part was fast replaced by a sometimes not-so-gentle nudge using a shoulder or an elbow and belting out a meaningless sorry - which to be honest, worked. The Brits were too nice to react otherwise.

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    1. What Purba says AND you endorse is all about good manners. What I intended saying is that the saying of 'Sorry' MUST transcend mere good manners. Good manners alone is not sufficient when you have wounded people - and, it seems to me, that we have started taking a show of good manners as being sufficient even where the hurt caused needs you to review your actions and thoughts and not merely your manners :)

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    2. Oh absolutely! I agree - IT must transcend good manners. And no, saying Sorry when you don't mean is probably as bad as not being apologetic itself. Probably worse, i suppose. A show of good manners is never going to be acceptable solution to the predicament. A true sorry SHOULD be a show of apology (if they mean it, that is)

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  24. As I always say - correcting your mistake is an actual sorry. Else, it's just a word, like many others.

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    1. Exactly Saru! Quite often, though, by not saying 'Sorry' to the person we hurt, we leave them feeling injured and resentful even though we really feel sorry.

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  25. I always tell my son that whenever he says sorry to anyone, it also means that the mistake won't be repeated again.
    Considering that more often than not, people say sorry and continue doing the same things... well, just saying sorry, and not feeling so, is never enough.

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  26. Very well written! Sometimes the person who is actually hurt is also not able to comprehend the remorse behind the word "Sorry" in his sheer anger or perhaps the word has truly lost its meaning today.

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    1. That happens too - that a sorry expressed out of true remorse is taken for a mere politeness. But, then, the remorse has to express itself in more than words - it has to express itself in actions going forth as well.

      There is a couplet from the Tirukkural in Tamil. Loosely translated it says 'A burn caused by fire will heal completely; that caused by words does not' It is far easier to hurt than the heal.

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  27. In Mumbai you can find fights begin with a sorry and then there is the regular refrain, "Sorry, bola na tereko."

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    1. Ha! Yes! THAT was in my mind all the while when I wrote this - 'Sorry bola na tereko' :)

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  28. Sorry should come from the heart and not from the mouth. Well written CS!!! Welcome back to Blog-a-Ton!

    Someone is Special

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    1. AND when it is in the heart, it should also come from the mouth. People cannot read minds :)

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  29. Sometimes saying that sorry just isn't enough I guess because the carpet is already stained!!! And maybe that's why even if you mean it, things don't change much after that!!

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    1. Maybe - but that should not be an excuse for not feeling or saying sorry. :)

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