Thursday, September 4, 2008

Random Thought: Hey Dad, about those apologies...

True remorse is never just a regret over consequence;
it is a regret over motive.
Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately. August marked the anniversary of his death, only I don't recall how many years it's been or what day it was. I blocked it out before it even happened. AIDS related death is such a slow agonizing sentence. It was shortly after my birthday when the dementia set in, that was the last time I visited. He wished me a happy seventh birthday and became ornery when I corrected him. I was an adult with a child of my own, seven years old was so long ago. I remember wondering what it was about that time that made him hold on to it. But I can't remember what age I said I was when I corrected him. The memories of those last few years are blurred and have eventually faded from view. As the painful flood of emotions make their way to my fragile consciousness they're met with a preemptive squelch from the wonders of modern medicine.

My dad was quite the communicator, he had a way of-albeit an insufferably long winded way, getting to the very craw of a matter. He taught me about grace and diplomacy, he taught me how to apologize, how and when to accept one. Like all dynamic duos, my mother sat at the other side of the helm doling the dish on how to take anyone down at the knees with a stern glare and a dose of well timed vitriol-she's a whole other post.

I discovered early on that I do not like to apologize, I'd rather itch. With that discovery, I made a conscious decision to a. Listen more, speak less b. Overthink everything to the point of being too exhausted to speak at all. It works. It may not be practical, but seldom do I have to stammer over to some sullen faced human with my shoulders slumped and my eyelids low to mutter those words, you know the ones.

I also learned oftentimes what people offer apology for and wish to be excused from, has little to do with the person they've allegedly wronged. They want, and often need a get out of jail free card. Whether they're being held by guilt or remorse, it is they who are being held. Playground psychology, if you will. I don't think we ever get past the time our parent-along with some other equally embarrassed parent, forcibly brought us forward, to confront someone whom we probably felt quite justified in maiming, for the symbolic truce; a vacillatory, "Sorry." A reluctant shaking of hands and a Machiavellian grin. You may or may not still get the snot beat out of you when you get home. (That might explain what all the playground pugilism was about in the first place).

I guess what I'm thinking is, what really is the point of an apology if you're not sorry? And further, why must we accept one simply because it has been offered? Why the pressure? Suffice it to say, I've yet to end or reconcile any ties based on the concept of an apology. Even when the sincerity is present, some things will fix themselves and others, well others just aren't meant to be fixed. I wonder what my dad would say. And you, what are your thoughts?

7 comments:

Mekhismom said...

I think that is amazing. I know that when my feelings are hurt I want an apology. But I guess ultimately forgiveness comes when I am ready - apology given or not.

Kiandra said...

i think this is an amazing post...so thought provoking.

first off i'm with you in thinking of my father in the month of august, as you know...his birthday just passed, and also my mother's and his anniversary was on the 11th. unfortunately the anniversary of his death is in july. a date i purposefully don't know to its certainty. it was such a violent end to a beautiful life i've never had the pleasure to know.

with that said...about apologies...

i don't mind apologizing especially when i know i'm wrong. but to that end, i think i am a bit or let's just say a lot like you. i really try my hardest to not be wrong.

not for the same reasons as you...as i stated earlier i don't mind apologizing, but, i don't like to hurt people. and in someplace in my mind, apologizing means i've hurt you.

i don't not like hurting others because i'm a whimp...not in the least bit. but because i was raised with "compassion" as a central theme in dealing with others...i view the act of hurting someone as a lack of compassion.

i don't know that i care for apologies much. in fact, when my husband offers them...i throw them back at him. not out of spite, but because i truly feel that after 10 years he know what tones of voice hurts me, how to hurt my feelings, offend me, etc. to knowingly hurt me and then offer an apology is patronizing at the least, and mean for the most part.

i do hold him to a higher standard than others i'll admit, but on to others, i don't want an apology i want that other person to learn a lesson of compassion, humility, acceptance, or what ever they lacked to initiate the hurt.

as for me...like you i strive to watch what i say, think about how i treat others so that i wont be in-compassionate, or intolerant, etc.

okay...enough with me writing a book on your blog.

great post!

and my thoughts are with you as you think about your father. i truly understand what your feeling.

Jewelry Rockstar said...

My youngest who is now 7, but was about 20 months at the time taught me about apologies. When we demanded she apologize to her older sister for some infraction she would blurt out "not sorry, not sorry." I guess I learned that a sorry is useless unless you mean it. Eventually we got them out of her, but I can still tell when she doesn't mean it. On the flip side it means a lot more when she does.

shiborigirl said...

As usual you write a beautifully worded, thought-provoking post. I'm sorry for the loss of your father - mine died several years ago, and I STILL try to pick up the phone to call him sometimes.

As for apologies, I try really hard (too hard sometimes), to be compassionate and kind to everyone. It's just easier in my mind, than to do all the mental gymnastics it takes to figure out what went wrong, what did I say, how did I say it, etc.

That said, when I am wrong, I always step up with a heartfelt apology. Whether the injured party accepts it or not, well that's on them.

BTW, I wanted to let you know I nominated you for the brilliant blog award. I do so enjoy reading your wonderful posts.

Thanks very much for your visit the other day!

Enjoy your weekend,

Kate

fly tie said...

lol @ the description of your mom.

so well put and so much like my own thoughts on the issue. and it's not so much that i don't *like* to apologize. it's just that most of the time i find the whole process irrelevant and unnecessary. if it comes down to me unintentionally doing something to physically harm another person, then i have no problem with an "i'm sorry."

with most other things, i find that if i relate to others the way i'd want to be related to & use tact and respect when sharing thoughts/giving advice, there are no issues that arise calling for apologies.

"a. Listen more, speak less b. Overthink everything to the point of being too exhausted to speak at all. It works. It may not be practical..."

those 2 are me all the way. and no it's not practical, but yes it does work, lol.

those topic reminds me of something that happens so much in this society. i never understand why people demand apologies from celebrities, politicians, etc. for comments they may have made that had the potential to offend others. obviously they meant what they said, so an apology would merely be "a get out of jail free card" just as you stated. i like the adage, "when they show you who they are, believe them." and keep it moving.

cecileklay said...

Tameka, so many things to think about in this post.

As a Jew, the topic of apology is preeminent this time of year (Jewish High Holidays). We are talk that G-d cannot forgive offenses against others...only that person can. G-d can only forgive offenses between an individual and G-d (oaths).

So....you gotta go and talk about apology and forgiveness if you take the whole thing seriously.

That's the rub. I did it the first year after my conversion and people looked at me like I'd grown another head ("If I have said anything or done anything hurtful during the past year, I ask for your forgiveness.")

Try that with all your family, friends and co-workers and see what response you get! ; )

Now I just do it with family. Other than that, like you I try to keep the edit button in the "on" position and apologize immediately for accidental offenses!

Ms. Bar B: said...

I lost my father to AIDS as well. It really is a slow sentence, like you said.

The only think I can say about apologies is if you don't really mean it then don't say it. Ultimately they are just words and without meaning behind them there really is no need to go through the whole song and dance.

I think its perfectly ok to not wanna apologize because as you pointed out, whose to say that the person you are suppose to be apologizing to will accept it.

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