Monday, April 14, 2014

Sorrow just doesn't make the cut!

Sorry. Quite the word. We teach children from their earliest days to say that word. Sorry. Apologies, regret... and when we have no control of the situation: strongest condolences... really.

Sorrow certainly is a start when we truly miscalculated, though often it is a power game, a game designed so that the winner lords the word over the one who said it, and the one who said it merely said so to escape the bind. Sorry might as well mean: you were right, rather than I was wrong. I say sorry often, and when I say sorry I mean it, I almost certainly regret the course of events caused by my actions. Yet, few people will ever apologise, and often I am asked to apologise by someone when it is them in the wrong, and sometimes I will, for my part of it.

The thing about not apologising when you are slightly in the wrong even if someone else is massively in the wrong, is that it appears stubborn, and it appears self serving and as though one too much enjoys power. If you take your nasty tasting medicine, also, while the other does not: it is no longer a fight with two wrongdoers: you are no longer in the wrong, and by apologising you can invite your enemy to join you in the right. I once retaliated to someone doing something shocking. I later reported them to the authorities for their actions as action and retaliation spiralled out of control. The authority involved asked if I would apologise to the offender for my small but significant retaliation to their threat: I readily apologised. They refused. If I was out of line I am not afraid to admit it. It doesn't make their actions right, nor does it mean I was entirely in the wrong, even if part of my actions were out of line or discourteous: but if I did not make that admission, then surely my entire action stands as wrong and not just the excess. What is more, it allows my opponent to take my ego and perhaps theirs out of the equation. My wrongdoing is from the past, their stubbornness counts against them when they refuse to admit what others see as wrong to be wrong. Such a power play as refusing to admit honest regret is one which weakens a negotiating position. People prefer parity.

I was easily able to admit where I had been wrong, I was able to admit my regret for my actions, even though their wrong against me was far greater than the claim which was theirs against myself.

An apology does not mean: you were right, I was wrong, it simply means I was wrong. That is all it means. And whether you admit your regret or not, people still see when you are wrong. People still treat you accordingly, but they might well form the impression that you are unable to face the music, unable to take accountability for your actions. This impression might be entirely false, but it tends to emerge from a refusal to admit when you regret your actions. Again I am saying admit regret: not to confess to heinous crimes or beg for forgiveness, but simply to admit regret. Regret is half of what people want from a wrongdoer or one who commits a social faux pas. Most punishment is handed out to make a person regret. Those who learn to regret without punishment, but in order to grow, are achieving an end others require punishment to learn. They are growing. They are learning. They are becoming great.

I am very quick to apologise and to make peace with an adversary. Why? Because we both know where I was wrong. As for where they were wrong, I am sure we both must know also, with any adversary I might face. Whether it is conscious or not.

My admission that I was wrong, does not do much for the person I say sorry to. It is said, they might or might not feel vindicated, although my being wrong does not make them right. What it does for me is much more important. It puts me at peace with others, it allows me to fix my flaws and act differently in other circumstances. It allows me to grow.

You see the problem: sorrow does not make the cut. Saying sorry does not either. If it is merely a power game, all you have done is acquiesce. Self reflection however makes the cut perfectly. If I can look at myself and honestly regret some or other action I have done. If I can honestly do so and express that sorrow, and have the courage to change my actions in future, then I am far more powerful than if I give a false apology, or if I refuse to apologise, as though it justifies my opponent's wrongdoing: in fact it simply puts me right with the world again. It does not make any wrong against me any less wrong. That is an important distinction, and if I am sometimes successful where others fail that is it: whenever I make a faux pas, it stays with me, even if no one else notices it. When I make an error I am certain to learn from it, and I am not afraid to share my regret. Because regret leads to growth and growth leads unto life.

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