“SAY you’re sorry!” I said in my raised low-level voice to my son, Rayyan, after witnessing him push his little brother Miqael onto the floor the other day.
“But, he did it first!” came his lightning-quick response.
I repeated the words, but this time, my voice was a little louder, firmer and more insistent. Our eyes locked. His bright eyes were red and brimming with tears. Then, came his lame response, “Yeah, sorry, whatever,” he said, as he scurried into his room.
I cannot remember how many times these words left my mouth when I am dealing with my kids’ sibling in-fighting, which can be incendiary and constant. It feels like an exercise in futility telling them to apologise when they have wronged another.
I know they are just children, and that most times, they do not even mean what they do anyway, but teaching our children to take responsibility for their actions is important. They need to be able to identify which action is wrong, apologise and not repeat it.
Saying an apology should not feel like a formality, where we are so accustomed at saying “sorry”, but not trained to feel remorse, which comes with it. They need to also be sorry.
To instill a sense of empathy in them, children need to be taught to see the world from someone else’s perspective so that they are aware of the need to accept their contribution to the problem and not deflect from their role when in conflict. Hopefully, when they become adults, they will not lose the awareness of how their actions can affect the people around them.
Take Noor Neelofa Mohd Noor, for instance. Recently, the popular television host-actress-celebpreneur came under fire following the controversy surrounding her hijab launch that was held at a nightclub.
Her choice of venue was criticised by Muslims here, including Federal Territories mufti Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, who reminded her to follow Islamic tenets in her daily life and activities as a Muslim. Some of her fans even said that they had lost respect for her and encouraged others to boycott her brand.
Even I thought what she had done was in poor taste and judgment; her action was enough to mock the religion. But, at the same time, I respect Neelofa for heeding the advice, thoughts and feedback from everyone. It did not take long for her to publicly apologise for causing stress and negative sentiments over the choice of venue.
The 29-year-old artiste even promised that her team would give greater attention in the future to make sure the image of their product was protected.
My mother always drilled this in my head that an apology is one of the most powerful displays of affection that people can make.
“It just proves that a person cares enough about someone or something to push his pride aside and work towards a resolution,” she said.
Those words are stuck in my mind. Surely it takes a lot of guts to own up to something you have done wrong.
When the sincerity of Neelofa’s apology was questioned by some, I thought that was downright unjust. It does not matter what faith and religion one holds on to, but it is ethical to be gracious in receiving and responding to an apology. It is well worth it on both ends, for the wellbeing of the offender and the offended.
We need to give people chances to make amends. It makes us the bigger person. If apologising is meant to be a last resort for Neelofa to get off scott-free from the pressing situation, then, that is her loss because apologies remind us to be conscious and to not lose sight of how our behaviour resonates with certain people. Accepting an apology shows one’s greatness of character, by not letting ego get the best of one.
As humans, we are imperfect creatures and we make mistakes on a daily basis — sometimes repeatedly. Whether Neelofa’s apology is insincere or otherwise, I believe saying sorry encourages remorseful action, reminding us to be conscious of the need to respect the feelings of others.
It is a humbling and learning experience, not just for Neelofa, but for the rest of us, too. It also serves as a powerful reminder not to repeat the mistake in future.
So, let’s cut her some slack and move on from this unpleasant episode. Let’s not prolong the issue since she has paid her dues. At the end of the day, Neelofa’s conscience is clear. Having owned up to her mistake shows she is mature in accepting the fact that she had erred.
Like Elton John’s song, Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, apologising never makes one feel small. Okay, next celebrity please...
The writer is a passionista with a keen interest in showbiz and pop culture (online shopping included!). And oh, she is also the entertainment editor