While trawling the major news items of the past few days, I was struck by the number of conflict situations and how people are dealing with them. Top on the list were apologies — of both types, people apologising and people refusing to apologise.
The headline-grabbing controversy of the molestation and assault charge on Indian Premier League (IPL) player Luke Pomersbach was put to rest in an out-of-court settlement between Zohal Hamid, who alleged that Pomersbach molested her and attacked her fiancé, Sahil Peerzada. Even as Pomersbach was arrested
and granted bail on these allegations, Siddhartha Mallya, director of the Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL team, for which Pomersbach plays, tweeted about Zohal, casting aspersions on her character. Zohal demanded an apology. Two days later, Mallya tweeted that the tweets/comments made earlier were unfortunate. The case was settled.
In Maharashtra, social crusader Anna Hazare’s close aide Suresh Pathare tweeted against the state’s EGS (employment guarantee scheme) minister, Nitin Raut, taking a swipe at his personal life. Pathare drew a lot of flak for his undignified tweet. So Pathare said that he regretted the tweet but he would not apologise since there was no reason to do that.
In the UK House of Commons, British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to apologise to MP Ed Balls after calling him a “muttering idiot”. Balls is said to have mocked the PM for being too “chillaxed” about his job and enjoying his wine and entertainment when the country is in recession. This was not the first time the PM lost his temper in parliament.
Earlier in May, the CEO of Yahoo Scott Thompson apologised for allowing a bogus degree to get into his bio data. He has listed in his CV that he has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, which he never received. There were calls
for him to resign to preserve
the integrity of Yahoo. Thompson tendered an apology but didn’t see the misinformation as grounds for his resignation. “…I take full responsibility and I want to apologise to you,” he said.
In Moscow, the Men in Black star Will Smith slapped a Ukrainian reporter Vitalii Sediuk after the latter tried
to kiss Smith inappropriately during the premiere of the movie, Men in Black 3. Sediuk said, “I’m sorry, Will. It was a splash of emotion. I do apologise for my behaviour. I think it was too much.”
Indian-American student Dharun Ravi, who was sentenced to one-month jail for spying on his gay roommate, who eventually committed suicide, refused to apologise to the victim’s family as he felt anything he said now would sound rehearsed and empty. He said that it didn’t mean he was sorry about what happened. He just didn’t think that words could do justice to what he felt.
As humans, we are put in many situations where we have to apologise or accept an apology. The latter can he harder to do since it puts pressure on the person to forgive, no matter how they really feel about the situation. If they do not forgive easily, they seem like the villain.
Apologising with a clear heart and mind can erase the guilt and pain to a large extent and bridge the broken bond with the person we have hurt. Different religious practices teach us to deal with being sorry in different ways. Buddhism asks followers to reflect on one’s own past actions and focus on the remorse. An empty apology for the sake of an apology serves no purpose if the person does not make an attempt to correct himself and take a pledge to not repeat that mistake. Only then will an apology be meaningful and serve a true purpose.