Say Sorry

By LEE MEI LI Tuesday August 31, 2010 (The Star)

If you could have one chance to seek forgiveness, whom will it be from?

THERE is a time and place for everything. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before this day was decided upon. Last week, a group of individuals and organisations jointly declared Sept 5 as Say Sorry Day.

Unlike the yearly Mother’s Day, Earth Day and what-have-you, this day is not gender, age or interest-specific. In fact, it cuts across all cultures and mindsets to encourage everyone, in Malaysia and beyond, to seek forgiveness from and grant each other.

Before you jump to conclusions and brand Malaysians as copycats, it is acknowledged that there is already an International Forgiveness Day in place, as well as a National Sorry Day in Australia. The local version came about in light of a young Malaysian’s predicament – death row prisoner Yong Vui Kong, who was only 18 when he was arrested for drug trafficking – in Singapore. In his plea for clemency, Yong has apologised, and hopes to be given a chance to share his life’s lessons and help fight the drug barons. While his desire to make amends serves as an inspiration, it must be noted that the Say Sorry Day is independent from Yong’s appeal.

Growing up as a Malaysian, I’ve had numerous encounters with the unforgiving phrase, “sorry no cure-lah!” I’ve also overheard a dear friend yell, “I can’t do anything with your sorries!” into the phone in a fit of rage.

Of course, saying sorry and seeking forgiveness can sometimes be two entirely different entities. The people whom we have wronged can accuse us of saying what we don’t mean, but it cannot be denied that a simple word can have a profound effect on the lives of others.

As the co-initiator of Friends in Conversation (FIC), a group that fully supports the Say Sorry Day initiative, Reverend Sivin Kit of Bangsar Lutheran Church in Kuala Lumpur believes that saying sorry is a good start to making amends and bringing change. If you want to make a difference, start by saying sorry.

It is all the more significant in this holy month of Ramadan. But, don’t just do it for a day. After all, practice makes perfect.

I remember watching an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer Simpson said: “If nobody is perfect and I am a nobody, then I am perfect!”

While the quote was hilarious in its logic, it also highlighted the obvious – that as human beings, we all make mistakes.

Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, representing the Sisters in Islam (SIS), expressed her disappointment with those who were quick to condemn, in reference to the teenage pregnancy and baby dumping dilemma that the country had been facing of late. Sadly, how many of us would take the trouble to fully understand a situation before passing judgement?

It was also suggested that many see the act of saying sorry as a sign of weakness when in fact, it often takes more courage to utter an apology. Even when given the chance, not just anyone can own up to their mistakes,

Saying sorry can’t possibly take away the hurt caused by cheating partners. Neither can it bring back a life, or mend something that is lost or broken. Just like that OneRepublic song, there are times when “it’s too late to apologise”. But saying sorry isn’t meant to right wrongs.

A particular quote by Pang Khee Teik of the Annexe Gallery in Central Market, Kuala Lumpur, struck a chord in me. The arts programme director said: “The law does not teach lessons; second chances do.”

When I was seven, I had read a story by local author Adibah Amin about a vain leopard and a monkey. The leopard never missed a chance to gaze at his beautiful spots reflected in the river and the monkey, in turn, would relentlessly insult him about his vanity. When at long last the leopard caught the monkey, he decided that letting him go with a warning was a lesson that death could never beat. If you think about it, there are countless movies that give second chances to even the worst of the bad guys.

Having been told to constantly look towards the future, we sometimes forget that self-reflection is what defines us as human beings. It’s easy to play the blame game and even have others apologise on your behalf. But we all need closure at some point in our lives. Not that you should need an excuse to do so, but it’d be good to make full use of Say Sorry Day.

Who knows, sorry could well be your first step towards reconciliation.

Say Sorry Day is a joint initiative between the Annexe Gallery, Council of Churches of Malaysia Youth, Islamic Renaissance Front, the Save Vui Kong Campaign and the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia.

The Annexe Gallery will be hosting a forum entitled Beg Your Pardon: When Governments, Leaders And Individuals Say Sorry on Sept 3 at 8.30pm. Following this, there will be an arts event entitled The Hardest Word: The Art Of Saying Sorry on Sept 4 at 8.30pm.

The public can also share stories, pictures and experiences on the Say Sorry Day Facebook Page and also on Twitter using the hashtag #iam sorry. An exclusive Say Sorry Day video featuring 15 Malaysians will be released via Facebook on Sept 5.

About givelife2ndchance

Give Life 2nd Chance is a movement dedicated to work on abolish death penalty in Malaysia.
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