Don’t ruin your sorry with an excuse” – Benjamin Franklin
We all have done it at least once, but I’m sure that many of us have said sorry countless of times while trying to squeeze in our excuse or justification for the wrong or the hurt we have done to others. I will be the first to declare my guilt, given how I’ve done just that countless of times. I would say sorry to my wife or to my daughter for acting brutish, losing my temper or saying something hurtful, but in the same paragraph say “but I only did it because you did not do this” or “because you promised me something but did not follow through” or “I expected better of you.” My daughter, who has less filters, would tell me: “Keep digging Papa, you’ll eventually bury yourself,” while my wife would say: “Just control yourself because you know you will have to say sorry later.”
I was reminded of our human failing yesterday when I read a news item about how Presidential Legal Adviser Sal Panelo did just that: Saying sorry that Hidilyn Diaz was hurt because she was dragged or implicated with an anti-Duterte group through a matrix presented by Atty. Panelo to the media in May 2019. Confronted by this error, Atty. Panelo was either put on the spot or decided to confront the issue and get it over and done with. He at least faced the music and said what to many was a conditional sorry, or “A sorry ruined by an excuse” where Panelo stated that Diaz’s name only appeared in the matrix because she had an anti-Duterte fan. While Panelo said sorry for the hurt experienced by Hidilyn Diaz, he was unapologetic for what transpired two years and two months ago because he merely presented a matrix made by someone else. Let’s leave the Panelo-Diaz controversy and move on to the more important matter of saying sorry the right way.
First of all, it is important to understand what and why we have to say “Sorry.” What exactly did we say, how did we do it, or what did we fail to do? Understand the nature of the offense and you can then try to figure out why you do it. This is very important because it addresses the source of the hurt or the offense: You. Is it pride, impunity, a judgmental nature, envy, resentment, copied behavior or language, or learned response? Take time to understand all that and you can minimize if not put a stop to it.
Next ask yourself: If it was done to you, how would you honestly react or respond? If someone screamed at you in public or in front of your children, how would that make you feel? If you were falsely accused or publicly insulted or used, would you do unto others just as they do unto you? Does this justify “fragging” the compound and calling the injured bystanders as collateral damage? All this is important because it determines whether you say sorry for the moment or you realize how hurtful and ugly your words or actions were and ultimately “repent,” which is to say you are so ashamed of something that you don’t ever want to do it again.
If you want to say sorry, then “man up” or take responsibility for your words or actions and don’t ruin it by saying it’s because of so much pressure at work, or you have been under stress, or the traffic. Don’t blame your boss, officemate or the media, for that matter. You made the foul so raise your hand.
Once you’ve come to realize your mistake or error, it is important above all to go directly to those you hurt as well as those who were bystanders and give a proper sorry that comes with no excuse or justification. Even God said not to come before me unless you’ve settled your difference with others. That’s also His way of saying don’t expect answered prayers if your heart is full of pride and injury. When journalists or broadcasters make a statement that is perceived as “libelous,” the remedy that is often required is a retraction and a public apology. But for the greater majority, we are expected to make an apology in person to whomever we hurt.
For the likes of Atty. Panelo, it was good and proper that he said sorry to Hidilyn on a TV program but it would have been more correct to go to or call and say sorry to Hidilyn Diaz first and then gone before the Malacañang Press to reiterate his sorry and regret. For the rest of us, if you screamed or hurt someone in the presence of others, then it follows that you also call the same folks to give your public apology because they were the collateral damage.
All of the above are crucial parts of a proper sorry but let’s not forget that it is also all about timing. Too soon and you face the wrath of Godzilla, too long and your sorry becomes expired medicine. As much as possible I try my best to practice what the Bible says: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” because we never know if, as the song suggests, “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” Waiting too long also leaves the hurt party to brood and the offense to fester. Whether you wait two years and two months or two hours, never prolong the agony of others as well as yourself. Most importantly, if you wait too long the person who got hurt might already be an Olympic Gold medalist and national icon!
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