As a fresh undergraduate in Unizik, one of the first GS English courses I had to take was with Dr. Joy Eyisi (now Prof.). The woman took her time to teach many things but the one that had me rolling my eyes was the “it’s wrong to tell someone sorry when what you want to do is empathize. The right thing to say is ‘hard luck’ or ‘what a pity’. So long as you didn’t cause the situation, it’s wrong to say sorry.” (paraphrased)
In my mind then I was just thinking, I’ll fall inside gutter and someone will come and tell me ‘hard luck’? It’s all right.
Now, there are two kinds of sorry: the empathetic sorry and the apologetic sorry.
There’s the sorry you tell someone who is bereaved. The sorry you say when someone trips and falls. The sorry that says, ‘I feel your pain, I understand, I empathize with you.’
Then there’s the ‘I caused you pain/anger, I apologise’ sorry. This is the one I have an issue with. I am one of those people that will not say sorry for the sake of saying sorry. People take an apology as an acceptance of wrongdoing and if I have not offended you, I find it difficult to apologise just like that.
I have this friend who is constantly apologizing. The instant he gets the slightest vibe from you that you’re upset about something, he brings out the sorry gun and fires off ten bursts in different languages. According to him, it is better to just keep the peace and avoid unnecessary tension.
As much as I understand this, sorry no be by force abeg. I believe it’s wrong to say sorry not because you mean it but because you’re using it to cover it up. I mean, I am more interested in making sure an offence is not repeated than in salving anybody’s ego.
An apology should not just end at the lips. It should come with a firm resolve not to hurt or offend the person in the same way again. When I say I am sorry, I am saying I intend to do my best not to repeat this mistake again. It is like a promise.
But I don’t like wahala at all and sometimes it is just easier to say sorry and have some peace and quiet. And then I have a very expressive face and anyone with half a brain can tell that I am not sorry even though the words are coming out of my mouth.
So I have developed a system I use with strangers especially. When such a situation arises and I say I’m sorry, I’m not apologizing. I’m saying, ‘I’m really sorry for you, na you push me but because you’re older I have to be the one to take the blame. God bless you.’ And everybody is happy.
Because at the end of the day, really, sorry no dey tear shirt.