When Saying “Sorry” Is Not Enough

when sorry worksToday is Saturday, February 22, 2014.

“Sorry” works when a mistake is made, but not when trust is broken.  So in life, make mistakes but never break trust.  Because forgiving is easy, but forgetting and trusting again is sometimes impossible.

I have no idea who said this, but the person said a mouthful.  This quote made me think of the many ways that there are to apologize in Japan.  Some forms of apology are more in the realm of “excuse me,” while others carry more of a request for forgiveness.   For me, “excuse me” is something you say when you’ve done something that’s not particularly wrong and not particularly hurtful, just maybe socially awkward, or perhaps inconsiderate.

When we ask for forgiveness, that’s when we admit that whatever it is we did or said was the wrong thing.  These are cases where we have caused bodily injury, damage to property, or emotional harm.

Breaking a trust takes it to a whole different level.  In Japan, I cam to realize that relationships (kankei) are treated almost like physical objects that are very delicate.  Many Japanese feel that when a kankei is broken, it’s like breaking a china cup.  You can mend it, but you will always be able to see the cracks, and you can never really make it completely whole again.   Once trust is broken, the relationship is just never the same again.

I’ve heard it said that when person A says he “trusts” person B, what he really means is that he can predict how person B will react, but I think that’s an oversimplification.  I think you can trust a person even if you don’t know for sure exactly  how they react, as long as you believe that the person will never knowingly or purposely hurt you, physically or emotionally, for any reason whatsoever, or that they will never hurt you in retaliation for any reason, real or imaginary.

I have known both women and men who are afraid to admit certain things to their spouse because they know in advance that their spouse will go into a rage that will cause them to retaliate in some way.  They end up lying to their spouse just to keep the person’s anger at bay.  For some reason these people are afraid to admit that they don’t trust their spouse, pure and simple. Some people allow spouses, partners, girl/boyfriends, or platonic friends to hurt them multiple times before they admit that the trust is gone.

There are people who simply cannot yet control their anger, and when they realize they have hurt the one they love, they apologize profusely, often with tears of anguish.  I have no doubt that many of them even believe what they are saying, that they really are sorry.  But then they hurt the person again, and it becomes obvious that their lack of anger management is greater than their feelings of remorse for having caused hurt.  In other words, it is more important to them to lash out for something that angers them than to control their anger so as not to cause harm.  In these cases the trust is well and truly broken,  Picture a fine china teacup that has been broken into so many pieces that no matter how well it is mended, it can never hold hot liquid again without the possibility of spillage.

It’s important to realize that there are always consequences for our actions, and that there are some things – and relationships – that simply cannot be fully mended, once broken.  :-/


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