'The s-word - small but so powerful'

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Coleen Rooney's barrister David Sherborne (right) questioni

Would the Wagatha Christie trial be happening if the S-word had been used? - Credit: PA

A small word with huge potential but only if said in the "right way" - with meaning.

Without meaning, the word is hollow and, as we all know, an empty gesture is worse than saying nothing at all. How many times have you felt, wronged by someone, yet if only they had said sorry (and meant it) you would have been able to move on?

A family story illustrates this rather well. 

In their later years, my two grandmothers lived in neighbouring apartments.

They were very different personalities but, being widows and neighbours, they forged a companionship, often popping over for a cup of tea, or to borrow a cup of sugar, an egg - even a kitchen utensil.

Shelley-Anne Salisbury

Shelley-Anne says proper use of the S-word has huge potential - Credit: 1000words.co.za

Unfortunately, it was a kitchen utensil that put paid to their friendship.     

The story goes like this. Grandma H asked to borrow a rolling pin from Grandma R.

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When Grandma R asked for its return, Grandma H said she had returned it.

Grandma R insisted she hadn’t and demanded she be allowed to search for it. Not finding the rolling pin Grandma R accused Grandma H of having damaged it and of concealing the evidence.

A heated argument ensued. Grandma H stood her ground, she had returned the rolling pin and what did it matter anyway? It was just a rolling pin.

She offered to buy a replacement. Grandma R was furious. What an insult! That rolling pin had been a wedding present, it was irreplaceable. 

And so it went on, year after year, the bitterness growing between them.

It was sad to witness. Surely, their friendship was worth more than a kitchen utensil?  

I tried to reason with them. My latent mediation skills clearly needed further work... 

It was only many years later, long after they had both died that I came to realise the rolling pin wasn’t the real issue at all. Well, of course it wasn't. It was merely a symbol of layered past grievances and misunderstandings.

If only they had been able to acknowledge each other’s hurts and say the s-word, these two old ladies might have had a shared companionship well into their final years.  

Sorry is a small word but packs a powerful punch and its impact should not be underestimated. There are a couple of people who might benefit from reading this…  Wagatha Christie is all I’m saying.  

Shelley-Anne Salisbury is a mediator, writer and the co-editor of Suburb News, themediationpod.net