Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'm Sorry

An article in today's paper includes a picture of two U.S. Naval officers bowing to their Japanese counterparts in apology for some crimes committed by American servicemen in Japan. The article says, "it is hard to overstate" the importance of the apology in Japanese culture. My friend Setsuko and I may not agree about polar bears and penguins, but we do agree about the importance of apologies. A few years ago, the U.S. bombed a Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia, then said it was a mistake. The reports I'm reading now all say the U.S. issued a full apology. But the way I remember it, there was some delay while NATO/U.S. considered their options, and there seemed to be some doubt as to whether an apology would be forthcoming. I remember this because I wrote my own apology and sent it to the Chinese embassy the day after the bombing.

This afternoon, I crossed a street in a crosswalk in front of a truck that was at a red light waiting to turn right. As I started in front of him, he started to go, and for a second it looked like he would hit me. Luckily, he stopped in time, and as I continued on, I said, "Sorry!" Anytime somebody bumps into me, I always apologize. In English, I'm sorry can mean, I regret my actions, or I regret the situation. In French, I would say, "Je suis désolée"--I am very sad. In Spanish, it's "lo siento"--I feel it, it hurts me. Anyway, it's not an absolute statement that the person apologizing is guilty of something. It's just courtesy, and I think it's the right thing to do, apologize right away, and you can always argue later about whose fault the situation was.


TBG said...

I think I may say "I'm sorry" more than anyone and think it is a great (and easy) way to diffuse a situation sometimes. But a friend of mine ended up paying for an accident she did not cause because when she got out of her car she said to the other driver, "I'm so sorry!" She meant what you said--that she was sorry that it happened--but the insurance companies considered it a declaration of fault and she had to pay (well.. her insurance paid, but you know what I mean).

So I have sadly had to tell my kids to never say "I'm sorry" in a situation like that. Isn't that terrible?

[The other think I say all the time is "Thanks" or "Thank you." I sign off on the phone every time with "Thanks!"--even to my husband or my dad or my kids.]

Sara said...

I think I overuse the phrase "I'm sorry." It's kind of a habit. It kind of loses some meaning because I use it that often, though I suppose the tone of my voice when I'm saying it can help to portray how sorry I actually am.

Read/Think/Live said...

TBG--I'm very impressed that you are online at the crack of dawn.

I think that many of our modernday evils can be traced to insurance companies. The example you cite is only one of them. I would rather pay for an accident I did not cause than have my freedom of speech curtailed by the insurance industry. I feel a rant coming on; I better go lie down.

Sara--nice to see you around the internet. I hope all is well for you in the school and wedding departments, and in every other way.