Thursday, September 27, 2007

Saying Sorry

Brainhell wrote this on Sunday:

yesterday during the movie, at 630 pm, the cough urge grew strong, so i went chin down over a towel. it was a drool fest but no suctioning.

in 8th grade 'tony' drew for me caricatures of holmes and watson that his brother had developed. i scorned his version and drew my own, more cartoonish. the teacher noticed mine and praised my creativity. i lapped up the praise and never mentioned the concept source. the teacher even had a silkscreen made of it. 'tony,' who became a professional artist, never mentioned it either. this is my apology. i'm sorry, 'tony.'

And it got me thinking, as most of his posts do. There's this notion that when we're dying, or when we're just seeking to make peace with ourselves or sense of our lives, we try to make amends. I know that saying sorry to those you've wronged is one of the twelve steps of AA. We apologise to people we've hurt and it helps us to move on, to start afresh. But, I wonder, what about those who've wronged us?

The comment I left for Brainy was about my friend Mina in grade four. Well. She has been "mean Mina" to me for many years now. My daughter, when she was quite little, loved the story about me and mean Mina having our final falling out. Mean Mina was little, even punier than me. But wiry and strong with her sharp knuckle-punches and chinese burns. She had two offsiders, huge already-bosomy "sisters" who were actually auntie and niece... one of them later became my friend so lets not name them here. They were all after me, stomp, stomp, stomp, I ran to the monkey bars, I shimmied up to the highest point, I spent the next hour prising their grasping fingers off me. Phew, it was a close call.

I digress. Mean Mina, you owe me an apology for stealing my idea for the school motto in grade four. "Helen St keeps things moving". And my picture of the swimming fish. Even more so, you owe me an apology because my idea won the competition and you got a free T-shirt.

can we decide to seek people out and demand apologies from them, or is that just really immature & ridiculous?


JahTeh said...

Lordy the memories that came flooding in reading this post. I ended up with two lists, apologies to others and apologies for me. It just about evened out so now I feel very righteous and cleansed and deserving of a chocolate reward.

That's so pants said...

Hi Meredith

It seems to me, probably because my memory is like an iPod shuffle, that unjust events in childhood suddenly come back and assume significance. Everyone gets bullied and mistreated in childhood to some extent. It's the degree that's important - individually, legally and chronologically.

The tradition of making amends is much older than AA - but obviously practised with different intent. I've had emails from Muslim colleagues at the end of a working relationship saying that if they've ever offended me, they're sorry for doing so and explaining that it's a religious obligation to make this gesture. They hadn't sent the email because they knew they'd offended me. It was a matter of etiquette. Possibly pointless but no more so than me ritually putting a napkin on my lap in a restaurant.



hexyhex said...

I don't think you CAN demand apologies. They don't mean anything if they're insincere.

Ampersand Duck said...

Bugger that! Demand away. You know there's not a real chance of getting an apology, but having a light-hearted whinge about it is a lot of fun. I'm sure the free t-shirt never felt quite right when wearing it :)

R.H. said...

The worst thing is never getting an apology. And revenge doesn't free you from bitterness. A sincere apology, even if you have to ask for it, lets you out of a prison.

Meredith said...

I like the Muslim idea of making amends whether you know you've wronged someone or not. It seems like a very fine thing to do, more than just a ritual. It might stop us bearing grudges, or as RH says, it might release us from a prison of sorts.

Ann O'Dyne said...

I was gonna talk about ME, until I read JahTeh's and Pant's brilliant swerves at this ... and by the time I read all the Comments above, I was thinking how good this whole NATION might feel, if only Our Fearless Leader might one day say:

"To the original inhabitants of this beautiful island,
everybody here who followed Governor Phillip,
unreservedly apologises for
aiding and abetting the COUP by the English Government.
We are all so sorry we have screwed up your lives and your country.
We are however, stuck with it so please also bear with us while we all try to fix it up".

Ms M said...

I think it depends on whether you feel that it will change how you feel. When I think about it there is one apology that I'd like to demand from somebody that hurt me because even after a long time I carry around a strong feeling that I really deserve an apology and so it continues to hurt me. Perhaps if I demanded an apology that feeling would go. I don't know.

genevieve said...

Meredith, I think it's healthy to have the attitude that you're entitled to apologies, but I don't know if I have learned how to ask for them yet. A case of theory requiring translation into practice, I think.

Someone I've read (a few people actually) put it well when they suggest that you ask people to change their behaviour, not themselves. If instead of seeking an apology you discuss the other person's behaviour, describe how it made you feel, and offer another option for the person next time around, it's possible you'll get an apology thrown in.
If of course they don't give a rat's how you feel, then demanding is not going to make things better. But checking that part of it out first is supposed to be a good start. Apparently. (This from me, who is owed bigtime by someone who didn't give the rats.)

Ariel said...

Hee hee! I like the idea, being a bit of an occasional(?) hoarder of grudges myself. Not sure that it would quite work - as, yes, they need to mean it for it to work - but I do like it.

I like the Muslim ritual too. Seems very polite. Maybe meaningless in practice, but I do like the spirit behind it.