South Africa 7.9.2018 08:15 am

The healing power of a sincere apology

To voice regret over past mistakes will bring a lot of caring and healing to our collective table. To mend a country as broken as ours, someone needs to take the first step.

I have had words with an idiot some weeks ago.

One of those rare occasions where blame wasn’t finely balanced between both feuding parties – he was completely wrong.

Since then I have been waiting patiently for a sincere apology. Without any luck.

“Why the hell do you break your head about it,” the lovely Snapdragon asked. “Will an apology really make you feel better?”

I mulled over her words and eventually came to a simple conclusion: yes, it will.

The simplicity of my answer is no surprise to me and less so to Snapdragon: although I can drive a car and operate a computer, evolution hasn’t blessed me with a huge upgrade from the typical hunter-gatherer’s brain.

If you care enough about me to pause your meaningless little life, realise you have caused me harm and are concerned enough to try and make amends, I will classify you as a trustworthy fellow tribesman and share a grilled piece of my springbok with you.

But if you don’t apologise, I will label you as an egoistic cockroach. And evolution has programmed me to annihilate vile little bugs.

Many of the people in this terribly sad country possess equally uncomplicated minds. Which means that a huge portion of the population is waiting in vain for apologies for harm done.

And the jerks who owe others an apology go on with their sad lives without giving it a second thought.

Which is a pity, because apologies harbour an impressive power. If I ever become a superhero, I’m not bothered to be Superman or Batman. I want to be Apologyman.

An honest and sincere apology has the potential to repair the recipient’s dignity, to restore trust. For the apologiser, it can remove fear of vengeance. And it can show character and demonstrate emotional competence.

In SA, where a huge portion of the population is burdened with resentment, acknowledging another person’s feelings can kickstart much-needed restoration.

Dear reader, if I may ask one favour: apologise. Once, twice and if you have to, a hundred times.

To voice regret over past mistakes will bring a lot of caring and healing to our collective table. To mend a country as broken as ours, someone needs to take the first step.

Let’s do it together.

Dirk Lotriet. Picture: Alaister Russell

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