Before I came to Los Angeles, I was often told that, in the US, it’s not a good idea to make an apology because it disadvantages you. But is this really so? Let’s examine it through a Buddhist perspective.
I‘m a big fan of sports, and speaking of sports, many Japanese baseball players have been traded to various major-league teams. For example, this year Masahiro Tanaka is coming to New York Yankees. He made a record of 24 consecutive wins in Japan last year. His transfer has become big news in New York. And speaking of Yankees, I am reminded of another well-known Japanese baseball player, Hideki Matsui. He is the first Japanese who won the MVP in the World Series. After that, he was presented the People’s Honor Award in his home country.
Three or 4 years after he joined Yankees, he was plagued with injuries. I remember once in a game, he had a compound fracture in his left wrist, which caused him to leave the front line. Matsui made an apology to his teammates and fans then, saying, “I’m sorry to inconvenience you,” it was reported. I’ve never heard a baseball player making an apology in such a case. However, this led to Matsui gaining deeper trust from people around him. His sincere apology helped deepen their ties and he became highly respected not only as an excellent player but also as a virtuous person.
Buddhism also teaches that self-reflection is a very good deed. Do you know why? Bad effects always have their own bad causes. If we acknowledge the past bad deed and think it over, we can avoid a recurrence of unfortunate experiences. And what’s more, by turning bad deeds to good ones, we can create a brighter future. The maxim goes as follows: Don’t take pride in not making mistakes; instead take pride in immediately correcting mistakes. I’d like to introduce a thought-provoking episode that relates to this from the book Something You Forgot … Along the Way.
A family that was always at loggerheads lived side by side with a family that was as peaceful as could be. A, the head of the quarrelsome family, was mystified by how well everyone got along next door. Finally one day he called on B and said in desperation, “Our family is always quarreling, as I’m sure you can tell, and I don’t know what to do about it. I see that everyone in your family gets along beautifully. Please tell me what your secret is.”
B replied, “There’s no secret in particular. It’s probably because everyone in your family is always in the right. Over here, all of us are always in the wrong, so there’s no quarreling. That’s all there is to it.”
Certain that he was being ridiculed, A was about to explode in anger when a loud crash sounded from inside the house. It sounded as if a piece of crockery had fallen to the floor.
The voice of a young woman said penitently, “Mother, I’m so sorry. All because I didn’t look where I was going, I went and broke that dish that meant so much to you. It’s my fault. Please forgive me.”
“Nonsense,” said the voice of her mother-in-law. “It’s not your fault at all. I kept meaning to put the dish away, and never got around to it. I never should have left it there in the first place. I’m the one who has to apologize.”
Then it dawned on A: “I get it. Everyone in this family is always in the wrong, and says so. That’s why there’s no quarreling.”
I cannot condemn others
though their sins be red as wine,
For truly their offenses pale
next to those of mine.
(Something You Forgot ... Along the Way, When Everyone is in the wrong, No Quarrel)
Missionary Nobuaki Kondo
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #37 | 2014, The Big Gap between Mere Knowledge Missionary and an Actual Experience
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