Rhona Canoy .
SO… Our councilor’s melodramatic privileged speech at the council meeting earlier this week certainly gave me pause to ponder upon the surprisingly common mindset of our culture. When he began talking about himself after the few words of apology was no surprise. But that people thought it was an acceptable and a worthy show of remorse was quite eye-opening to me.
Perhaps we were never really taught how to be sorry. In our day-to-day dynamics, we seldom have reason to consider the importance of this. As a culture, it seems “sorry” truly is the hardest word. We force our children to apologize for a wrongdoing without really making them understand the reason and the value of it. As children, we’ve all heard the words “Say sorry.” In a way, what we are taught is how to subjugate our pride without knowing why. A truly bitter pill to swallow which makes us lose sight of the important lesson of how to truly be sorry.
There are few things which I think must be considered unconditional if it is to have meaning. Love, hate, respect and trust are on top of that list. And those things come into play when “sorry” is involved. And yet it seems to be human nature to treat apology as an instrument rather than a sincere emotion. Why do I say instrument? Because it is the first resort in order to avoid trouble. When we say sorry, there is an element of avoiding accountability. Sorry opens the door to defending ourselves, giving us an out as to why we did what we did. We’ve grown accustomed to saying, “Sorry, but…”
I suppose this becomes a habit when one is forced by another to offer an apology. Like I said earlier, a lesson we teach our children well. For anyone who has to subjugate themselves twice, a sincere apology becomes difficult. First, if circumstances force one who is not really repentant, the task becomes odious. Second, if a person of power forces the one who commits the dastardly deed to apologize when repentance is not forthcoming, then the task becomes truly odious.
Ideally, sorry is a word that (when uttered) is symbolic of how a person comes to terms with the wrongness of something, and understands that its recurrence is out of the question. For, after all, how many times do we call it a mistake? How many times can one be sorry for the same thing? If I’m sorry for being disrespectful, and I seem to habitually be saying sorry for it, shouldn’t I then have to admit that I am just a disrespectful person? And maybe I should stop apologizing for it then, and just be it. There is more respect in being true to one’s self in that.
Let’s talk about how the councilor’s actions are being regarded by some as a “small” thing. By powerful, publicly positioned, learned people as well. What the hell does this say about our nature? True, it is a common occurrence in our society, which then makes us assume that it is acceptable. But common doesn’t make it right. Shouldn’t we think about that? Because if it were commonly acceptable, then the surge of negative reaction by many to the councilor’s deed would be hard to explain. And makes me wonder just how long this reaction has been repressed, or suppressed.
I always want to believe that people are intrinsically good. And, for the most part, I have found it to be true. There is no reason for me to believe that the councilor is purely evil. I’m sure somewhere out there is someone to whom he has shown kindness and respect. I’m sure that to his family, what he is going through now is undeserved. Although, of course, I would expect his family to come to his defense as I have done for mine. But still, there is an expectation of accountability and unconditionality in any wrongdoing that must come with acknowledging the wrongdoing.
Plus, there is a common misconception that apology and accountability are one and the same. No, they’re not. One may be apologetic and remorseful, but that shouldn’t excuse him or her from being accountable. If this were so, then our penal system would have no reason to exist. All we would need would be a venue for issuing a public apology and all would be well. All thieves would have to do is say “sorry.” All murderers would have to do is say “sorry.” All wife beaters would have to do is say “sorry.” All rapists would have to do is say “sorry.” All disrespectful people would have to say is “sorry.” And all would be well.
Perhaps the lesson for us all should be this: First, be sorry. Then, say sorry.