I was at a BBQ on Saturday. A friend’s birthday, a brother rather, because we are past friendship and have been for almost 2 decades now. He is a wholesome dude, one of the best you could have by your side. We swam, ate, drank, danced, said stupid shit and we had the most fun I have had in a long time. It is one of those moments that make you appreciate life, as it is, not as you would have wanted it to be.
An incident happened around 9 pm that caught my attention. Two boys, almost 3 years of age and almost 4 years of age, were playing, laughing, connecting, running and enjoying their God given freedom. Then, as it usually happens, the kids had a little scuffle, one hurt the other and 5 minutes later, the hurt one hurt his new friend. Each time, one kid cried and the other was asked by their amazing and ever-present (not overbearing, which is a notable difference) parent to apologize. Both kids apologized, received congratulations and hugs from their parents to solidify their good deed and the party went on, uninterrupted.
I was there and observed both conflict resolutions. The one thing that hit me was the way both kids were reluctant to apologize. It was interesting. Now, let’s clarify something; they weren’t reluctant to apologize because they didn’t know how, they just wouldn’t do it right away, they needed a little time and a little pressure from the parents. Personally, I know their parents. I know they are raising their kids to be decent, kind and considerate people because they are so themselves. The kids didn’t want to apologize in front of people, they felt slightly ashamed to have put themselves in those situations and they cried instead of apologizing. Yet, the parents didn’t give up. They weren’t fooled by the cries and the screams. Kids are amazingly manipulative, but parents know better. In the end, the kids apologized.
The whole thing made me think and I couldn’t help but smile. I grew up in a Burundian society in which, as far as I can remember and I have a pretty good memory, I don’t recall an adult person apologizing to another. I don’t remember hearing an apology at school or while talking to anyone. Any apology was like an eclipse: rare, brief and if you didn’t hear it, then it didn’t happen! Let’s not even talk about an adult apologizing to a child or a teenager or anyone who is younger. Apparently, adults do not make mistakes and if they apologize, they lose credibility in their children’s eyes which implies they had some to begin with when we all know they rarely did. This fun fact begs the question: how do people learn to apologize? Where do they learn to apologize if virtually no one ever does it? Better yet, do they ever apologize? Has anyone ever?
I know I am using hyperbole but whether you are Burundian or not, think of your own upbringing, and count the people that apologized to others. I know grown ass men and grown ass women, because this isn’t a gender related issue, who wouldn’t apologize even their life depended on it. I have seen people be wrong, ridiculously wrong, and keep a straight face while refusing to apologize. I am talking about people who have hurt people, people whose fault is plain to see, even to themselves, people who have erred but who wouldn’t apologize even if they were thrown in solitary confinement at a maximum Russian security prison.
The ramifications of raising people who don’t know how to apologize, or don’t want to, or don’t feel the need to or cannot because of an innate sense of entitlement, are more severe than we think. A person who cannot or will not apologize will certainly become a danger to themselves and to society. I am not talking physical danger necessarily but people who will not or cannot apologize will have a hard time navigating through life. A person that thinks apologizing is a weakness has already lost a few points because they will be incapable of self reflection after hurting someone because they might dismiss what happened if it doesn’t fit in with their preconceived notion of human interaction.
I personally cannot stand people who cannot or will not apologize. I believe most people understand they should apologize in specific cases, but they would never admit their fault. Pride really does come before the fall.
Any activity that is taught at a young age is more likely to be ingrained into the person’s behavior and become part of their routine and world. It can even become second nature and the world will be better for it.
So, start them young. Explain to them why they must apologize. The reason is as important as the words “I am sorry” themselves. When you apologize, face to face especially, you can talk to the person you have hurt and give them a slice of closure and relief with your apology because they deserve it. I have heard people minimizing the importance and impact of an apology which shows that some people can be quite inconsiderate and detached from other people’s feelings and that is just heartbreaking. The things that make us human are our interactions.
Apologizing teaches people humility, it teaches them they are mere mortals that make mistakes, that hurt others and that they must take responsibility for their actions. A good apology will take anyone a long way. The funny part is, when one says “I am sorry” confidently, it is a show of strength of infinite proportions. It elevates you and it never makes you look weak. Yet, that is the kind of behaviour one must learn at a young age for it to be sincere when they are older. Usually, decent and confident kids make decent and confident adults.
A big round of applause to the parents that were able to teach their kids to apologize in a sincere manner. You guys are the heroes we should celebrate, not the person that has the most IG followers or the person that invented the latest app. You guys are the heroes for not giving up, for putting in the work to make your kids decent people. You guys are the heroes that are making the world a better place by putting on this earth good and decent people who will strive to be better. You rock and I salute your commitment, your love, your efforts and strength towards your kids. Awesome parents are the unsung heroes.
Homie, Madame Homie and baby girl, YOU ARE THE REAL HEROES!
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day.