On May 16, 1982, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” was released by the American rock band Chicago. The record shot to the top of charts around the world; it received rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Today, it is hailed as one of the greatest ballads of all time.
It was more than just a love song. It delves into the complexities of relationships and the pain that comes with having to make amends. Christopher Doyle, in an article which appeared in oldtimemusic.com, wrote: “Apologizing can be a difficult task, but it can also be incredibly beneficial for both the person apologizing and the recipient.”
“I’m sorry” are just two words but saying it is very difficult. But then, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then the country’s president, said those words in 2005 when she apologized for “a lapse in judgment” for making calls to then Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano while canvassing was still going on in the 2004 presidential race.
Speaking in a nationally televised four-minute address, she admitted, “I recognize that making any such call was a lapse in judgment. I’m sorry. I also regret taking so long to speak before you on this matter. I take full responsibility for my actions and to you and to all those good citizens who may have had their faith shaken by these events.”
“When you realize you’ve made a mistake, make amends immediately,” said Dan Heist. That’s easier said than done. For in real life, it takes a lot of courage to ask for forgiveness from the person you have done wrong. A philandering husband will have a problem asking forgiveness from his beloved wife. A teenager will also have the same with his parents.
Perhaps, not too many families use the word “I’m sorry” in their homes. Not so with Margaret Laurence. She said, “In some families, ‘please’ is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was ‘sorry.’”
If you have done something wrong to anyone, ask forgiveness now before it is too late – when that person is no longer around, and he cannot hear your words of apology. “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone,” wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1865’s Little Foxes.
Saying sorry in movies abound. One of the most striking was featured in the Oscar-winner Gone With the Wind. After the funeral of her second husband, whom she never loved, Scarlett O’Hara (played by Vivien Leigh) told the love of her life: “Oh, oh, Rhett. For the first time I’m finding out what it is to be sorry for something I’ve done.” Rhett Butler (portrayed by Clark Gable) replied: “Dry your eyes. If you had it all to do over again, you’d do no differently. You’re like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he stole, but he’s terribly, terribly sorry he’s going to jail.”
If saying “I’m sorry” is very hard, it’s harder to forgive. Somerset Maugham said, “People will sometimes forgive you the good you have done for them, but seldom the harm they have done you.”
Roberto Assagioli pointed out, “Without forgiveness, life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.” Consider these cases:
A young man, falsely accused, condemned, and penalized by his high school principal, turns sullen, angry, and bitter. His faith in justice and authority dies. He will not forgive.
A girl, betrayed by her closest friend, is forced, becomes pregnant, then turns bitter and withdrawn. Her faith in humanity ends. She cannot forgive.
A woman, deserted by her husband, left to be both mother and father to their two sons, turns angry at life – at the whole universe. Her faith in God and everything good has ended. She did not forgive.
“I’ll never forgive,” American General James Oglethorpe told John Wesley. “Then I hope sir,” Wesley replied, “you never sin!”
“What must I forgive?” asked David Ausburger, author of The Freedom of Forgiveness. “Not just the small things, the trivial irritations, the tactless, thoughtless mistakes others make. But everything. Even the hurts that cut and sear. There are no exemptions!”
But forgiveness is rare. “I doubt that very many people actually forgive,” a counselor once said, “their memory just becomes fatigued. There’s a big difference between real forgiveness and a tired memory.”
If ever you forgive someone, forget all the troubles he or she has caused you. Theologian Frank Stagg explains: “Forgiving and forgetting are related, but forgiving precedes forgetting. To forgive, one must first remember the injury, the impact, the injustice done. To forget ignores the needs of the offender and injures the offended by driving the sense of being wronged deep into one’s own being where resentment does its slow destructive work. Forgetting is negative, passive; forgiveness is positive and creative.
Staff further says, “Before one can forgive and forget, both offender and offended must remember together, recall the wrongdoing together, finish the feelings together, reconstruct the relationship together and then they may forget together. In remembering, reconstructing, forgiving and forgetting each regains the other.”
But before you say, “I have forgiven you,” the person who has done wrong to you must tell you first, “I’m sorry!”
To end this column, here’s what C. JoyBell said: “People have to forgive. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be friends with them, we don’t have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don’t, we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!”