I’d like to apologise if I cause you any offence

I think a singer got here before me, but it strikes me that 'sorry' seems to be the hardest word.

Foul language and spiteful insults trip off many tongues, but the S-word, which carries with it a power to heal rifts and rebuild relationships, sticks in throats.

If you are a parent, you'll know that it is easier to perfect a souffl� than to get your child to say sorry. If you are a husband or a wife, it's more akin to pushing water uphill.

Domestically, the genuine apology is rare.

However, politically and in the sphere of stardom, people seem to favour the almost-apology: insincerity that is wrapped in weasel words.


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They speak of 'regret'. They say they would 'like to apologise for...'

And all of that is only for 'any offence that they might have caused'. But it'd take an endoscope to hunt down the word 'sorry' that lurks resentfully in their hearts.

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The latest 'star' to opt for this approach was the Liverpool FC striker Luis Suarez.

He clearly has no difficulty in forming words, as demonstrated by the racist attack on Manchester United's Patrice Evra. But, having further shamed himself on Saturday by refusing to shake Evra's hand before a big match, he was apparently unable to say the single word that would end this sad saga - sorry.

Oh yes, he was 'sorry' for letting down Liverpool FC. But was he 'sorry' for first racially abusing and then publicly humiliating Evra? Was he heck.

If he was, he could have ended all of this about two months ago.

Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish's mea culpa was a masterclass of sorry-dodging.

Instead of finally summoning up the S-word for his tasteless support for Suarez, which gave confidence to those who seek to justify racism, he said he'd 'like to apologise' for his behaviour during a post-match interview on Saturday.

You'd 'like to apologise', would you, King Kenny? Well, why don't you? If it helps, the word rhymes with lorry and Corrie.

For a man who always looks as though he has put his winning Lottery ticket in the washing machine, one can only imagine what sort of expression the bitter taste of 'sorry' would form on his face as it was forced out.

As someone who has a great deal to be sorry for, and who often uses the magic word, people's refusal to say this single simple word infuriates me.

But perhaps my anger is misplaced. For in truth the fault lies with the current culture, which magnifies mistakes, pulls apart people's pasts, and demands apologies willy-nilly.

The word 'sorry' is only powerful when it is sincere, not when it is hauled out of somebody after a media feeding frenzy or a bout of parental pressure.

I've extracted enough grudging apologies from my children to know that it is unsatisfactory. But on the rare occasions that they independently recognise that they are wrong and decide for themselves to say 'sorry', their words are transformed.

Then, the apology builds bridges, and is a significant step on their journey to self-awareness and maturity.

So in future, if you have messed up, got caught out and are sorry, say 'sorry'. If you are not, say nothing.

•This article was first published on February 14, 2012.

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