They say that to err is human, and to forgive, divine. But they’ve skipped an important part to the whole equation, these super brainy people. I’m talking about The Apology. That bridge between our mistakes and our redemption. And I’m wondering why the art of saying sorry is beginning to look like a casualty on the ‘Lost’ series. Did the human Ego inflate that much over the last century that it’s made us blind to our weaknesses? We hurt loved ones with our temper at home, partake in vicious rumours at the workplace and contribute to general rudeness on the streets. But ‘sorry’ seems to go into hiding every time we need to say it. Or maybe it has taken a holiday deep inside our Conscience because it’s simply not wanted.

Even Our Politicians Don’t Say It

Politicians are not exempted from what I call ‘apolophobia’ – fear of saying sorry (ok, I made this up). Sure, they’re under tremendous pressure to carry out their responsibilities (ok, this is theoretically true). And that’s why it’s perfectly understandable for them to quote the old standard “I’m only human” when they commit a boo-boo. However, it’s just a downer when they forget to follow up with “I’m sorry”, especially since they’re supposed to lead by example.

In fact, politicians would seem to be the biggest evaders of The Apology if we simply track the variety of excuses they give when called out on a mistake. Here are some examples.

(1) Being Called Out on a Bribe

“That other fler is worse than me, ok? He took RM100K!”

This is a sourpuss kind of response. Not only does the guilty party avoid admitting to the error of his ways, he tries to deflect attention to someone whose mistake appears to be graver than his  – as if this will turn him back into an angel. Well, we’ve got news for you. There’s no such thing as a more corrupt dude, dude.

(2) Being Called Out on Bad Judgment

“I didn’t say it. I’m just echoing what has already been said.” OR;

“That’s not what I said. You journalists are always twisting my words.”

Ok, having to eat humble pie after making a bad call is not easy. But there’s no need to panic and push the blame onto the journos or tango with the English Language to escape the fact that you said what you said. No appendage is going to fall off if you just allow that little ‘s’ word to launch off the tip of your tongue alright? On the contrary, it may just grow an extra few inches out of sheer inflated pride at your humility.

(3) Being Called Out on a Scandal

“That fler should resign. As a leader, he has no credibility whatsoever after such an embarrassing scandal.”

This is another famous Escape-from-Accountability route some politicians like to take when their own reputation is in tatters for a similar scandal. Say one got caught pole-dancing in an illegal nightclub and decides it’s best to lay low for a while. Say that 2 months down the line, his peer is accused of engaging the services of a prostitute. Now, watch this piece of work hyper-speed out of the woodwork and petition for the resignation of said peer. Wait a minute, Mr. Pot, we don’t recall you looking at the mirror after your own misdemeanour and badgering yourself to resign. And where’s the ‘sorry’, by the way?

(4) Being Called Out on a Lie

“…I like the Chinese. Actually, I give a lot of financial aid to the Chinese…” (Proceeds to call the Chinese ungrateful days or weeks later.) OR;

“…Gas canisters were not fired into the compound of the hospital.” (Am sure you know this one by hard now.)

What’s with some politicians refusing to say sorry when they’ve obviously lied? Which part of the brain isn’t functioning? Which part of the forked tongue isn’t telling? Is it premature Alzheimer’s? Whatever it is that makes them think we won’t notice the discrepancies, it’s stupid. Thankfully the rest of us are not.

(5) Being Called Out on a Crime

“I was acquitted ok?”

Now, I don’t know about you lot but this is the ultimate bamboozle for me. We have politicians charged for a variety of crimes in this country who later become acquitted for reasons we cannot fathom. So when they continue to face public skepticism, they’re all sulky and defensive, indignantly insisting on their innocence and how it’s all in black and white. Hang on, dude. In this same country where the only thing that’s black and white are the zebras at our zoo (and the font on a blank Word Document page), the real jury is sometimes the public whining about.

Why Is It So Damned Hard?

Enough psychologists around the world and in cyberspace tell us that saying sorry is a challenging endeavour because human beings fear rejection. Some of us fear losing power at the sign of weakness. And unfortunately, making an apology counts as one.

But this is the 21st century where men who cry are favoured by women over those who suck it all in. Even when their favourite football club gets demoted into the second division. So I’m pretty sure politicians (or anyone for that matter) who can apologise will be looked upon with some degree of respect. After all, it’s precisely because it’s so difficult to do so that renders the act courageous. That makes us all partial to people who can offer a sorry where appropriate. In fact, saying sorry shows the offended party that we care and paves the way for forgiveness to occur. And you know what they say about forgiveness – it’s not only healing for the offended party, but a zap of confidence and motivation for the offender to be better. Basically, it helps everyone to move on.

Getting Off Our High Horses

Yes, it takes balls to admit you’re wrong. And that goes for the rest of us Malaysians too.

Have you been showing your finger to other drivers on the road even though you’re the maniac who pioneered the No-Signal rule when turning into junctions? Say sorry.

Have you been tossing haw flakes and gum wrappers onto the street because you spotted the cleaners about and reckon your act gives them something to do? Say sorry.

Have you been exploding at your partner for their imperfections even though you’ve a track record of being an arse and a half? Say sorry.

Have you been racially discriminatory when hiring staff for your office department? Say sorry.

Have you been criticizing your fellow Malaysians for standing up for their rights (and yours) while doing absolutely nothing yourself? Say sorry.

As to the question of how – especially in the cases where the public is involved? I don’t know. Get creative. Or watch the DiGi below commercial for ideas.


At the end of the day, we can argue our way out of having to apologise if we want. Hey, it’s the era of post-rationalisation, after all. But maybe this Merdeka season, it’s time for us to free ourselves from hurtful habits and prejudices  – both as individuals and Malaysians – and confront the Truth: That while we place our hopes on the maturity of our leaders and politicians to lead us to a better place, we the citizens need to be just as mature to actually get there.

I’m sorry if you don’t agree, of course.


Lisa Ng is a human being. She used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry. But now she just writes. For whatever helps us regain the lost art of "giving a toss" about the things that matter to...

2 replies on “I’m Sorry. Or Maybe I’m Not.”

  1. Thank you, I have just been looking for information about this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have discovered till now. However, what concerning the bottom line? Are you positive concerning the source?

  2. I question the sincerity of an infomercial that ends with the makes-you-puke-a-little-in-your-mouth-when-you-see-it 1Malaysia logo.

    I may be the only one.


    Merry Merdeka.

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