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When a person is caught, how do you know s/he is truly sorry?

Coming forward and admitting misconduct (omission or commission) when no one knows may look stupid when you can get away with it. But when a person is caught who previously denied wrongdoing is in no position to receive understanding. Because a truly sorry person will come out clean before a skeleton in the closet is exposed.
With this post, I am completing my thoughts about the BIG 3 scandals that preoccupied our nation at the moment- the pork barrel scam, sex video scandals, and the Mark Solis plagiarism. I’m done with the first two, so this post is about the plagiarism that brought shame to the University of the Philippines as an institution and Filipinos in general.

Read: When your head is on the line, will you do what is right?

Are we a nation of cheats? There are cheaters in every corner of this planet and certainly, corruption is not exclusive to this part of the world. However, it should not give any of us the license to go ahead and cheat our way to success, stardom, or even out of poverty. In my opinion, poverty is not an exemption to observe decency and disregard the law. And certainly, despite the public outrage against the misused and stolen taxpayers’ money, we should still pay taxes to the government. By becoming a thief ourselves, we are no better than those who steal by the billions.
This post is not meant to pass judgment since I am not in the position to do that, I also hope that a redemptive attitude is extended to the plagiarizer. This post is meant to add value to people who are hurt directly or indirectly by someone’s behavior and those that administer discipline by sharing indicators of a truly sorry or repentant person. The content of this article is the lessons I learned both as a recipient and administrator of discipline (at different points in my life).
There are consequences to every action
An action merits counter-reaction. This principle is meant to caution us from doing something stupid because of the consequences ahead. If the normal course of this law is altered because of misplaced ‘kawawa naman attitude” or railroaded justice, the deterring force becomes useless.
Discipline is not optional.
Discipline came from the Latin word “discipulos”, the same root word where the word disciple came from. The purpose of discipline is to restore the person to the desired behavior. Progressive discipline is applied depending on the gravity of the act.
Sorry is not necessarily repentance.
People who are caught may be sorry but not repentant. And in most cases, since the act is premeditated, the escape route is also carefully planned. On the other hand, repentance means complete turn-around (180 degrees turn) or complete changed behavior. A truly sorry person is repentant and repentance includes retribution or payment to the damages caused by the bad behavior.
Here are some actions that may indicate a repentant attitude, a truly sorry behavior:

  • Comes forward and admits to the wrong behavior even though nobody knows about it (in short will not wait to get caught)- coming forward though, does not mean you go to the media and announced that you killed someone. But going to the right person of authority, i.e. kids to parents, spouse to spouse, subordinate to boss/hr
  • When caught, a truly sorry person doesn’t blame other people, situations and looks for more excuses.
  • Acts like a man- will face the issue head-on and will not allow a “padrino” to apologize or speak on his/her behalf
  • Submits to authority and the law
  • Willing to lose it all, for the time being, the person will lose face, lose the trust of people, lose a job, lose resources and opportunities
  • Face the consequences of his/her action
  • Pays retribution- if the act involves loss or damage to property, loss of money, stealing someone else money, then the damaged property should be replaced or restored to its original condition or the money involved should be returned plus “interests”.

Based on experience, a caught person will take time recovering from trust issues than those who came forward and faced the music. But those who are caught can still be restored to the desired behavior, though through a much more painful process.
Likewise, those who came forward when no one knows will also go down and lose all. But this is only temporary and bouncing back is easier compared to those who were caught.

Read Integrity, should it matter?


I  mentioned earlier that I’ve been on both sides of the fence. Before growing to the responsibility of administering employee discipline I was also on the receiving end of discipline. Here’s a short story of mine (I committed several follies too when I’m younger, but I’ll reserve that for future use)


Once upon a time, as a newly hired employee, enthusiastic and grateful for the opportunity, I took it upon myself to wipe and clean a colored TV inside a training room under my care. Though it is supposedly the job of a janitor.  In the process, the colored tv fell from its stand.

I have a choice to keep quiet, bec. CCTV is not widely available then and no one saw the incident. And the janitorial agency is likely to be blamed.  But I decided to come forward and reported it to the head of operations. The TV was assessed and declared beyond repair.  As a consequence, I paid for the brand new replacement, in 24 gives (12 months). The consideration I got was less than 20% of the purchase price. But I cannot bring home the broken tv set. I was on probationary employment then, but in the 2nd year of my employment, I was recommended for the Senior Human Resource Manager position.

Taking the route of honesty is indeed painful, but unlike being caught, the acts of integrity signify that you indeed are truly sorry, and it has a reward in the end.

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