The art of apology is essential to the spirit’s growth. It is also something we fail to teach our children at our peril – and theirs.
I emphasised the importance of saying sorry, and of forgiveness, to the Lad from his earliest months and years. When he was very small, I made sure that no day ended without all necessary apologies having been made (both ways: If I had hurt his little boy feelings, I would acknowledge that), and with hugs, kisses and an emphatic, ‘You are my best boy. I love you…’ before I tucked him in and left the room.
I was absolutely determined that he would learn the wisdom of not, if possible, letting the sun set on banked anger or hurt.
I get really upset when I hear of parents who wilfully sow the seeds of vengeance and feud, who insist that they are always in the right and that any apology on the horizon should come from the other party.
Apologies cost nothing; they are cleansing; they can bring a smile back, right a wrong, heal a wounded heart, reassure and comfort those who have genuinely been misunderstood or sent to Coventry.
We can see, all too bleakly and clearly, the results of a culture in which blame, hatred and need for revenge predominate; a society in which no apology is acceptable and blood shed is the only thing which seems to assuage national and international hurt feelings; a world in which far too many children are sent to bed without that all-important apology, that ray of warming love, that assurance that, whatever silliness and temper they enacted during the day, they are still loved unreservedly by their parents.
Too many children are taught by their parents that apology is a sign of weakness, only slightly less heinous than the ‘sin’ of shedding tears. Too many parents hold out against an apology, ignore the child who is desperately trying to make up a quarrel, until it suits some sick need for control to finally end the nasty little game.
‘I am sorry’: Three little words – but, by Goddess, the freight they carry in some people’s minds makes them rarer than the apocryphal hens’ teeth, more valuable than gold – and, tragically, a simple statement that is, all too often, bartered for at great cost to both sides.
I was brought up to believe that, if I did something wrong, the decent thing to do was to admit to it and apologise – immediately, if possible. I was also taught to accept other people’s apologies and to forgive those who had wronged me.
Neither of these are easy. We humans are stubborn, contrary creatures and easily get into a knot of self-righteousness and implacable fury. It is often tempting to punish the other by holding out. It is often tempting to turn the back and ignore the other until he/she grovels. You see it happening between individuals. You see it happening between nations.
But, as I say, an apology costs nothing – and the global want of it could cost us the earth.