Say you're sorry.
There's a lot of emphasis in our society on apologies. We want to hear sorries from everyone who's ever had a bad day, made a bad choice, used bad judgment, or simply gotten in our way. Famous, infamous, and common folk alike, we're all being asked to apologize on a fairly consistent basis.
At one time in our society, I think "I'm sorry" meant something. I really do. It wasn't that long ago that you could say you were sorry, mean it, and mutually move on. Today, "I'm sorry" feels like half-a-sentence. The other half, in our self-driven, self-centered, individualistic, hedonistic society is, "...that you can't deal with my awesomeness."
People aren't saying "I'm sorry I hurt you" any more. They aren't connecting their actions to much of anything outside of themselves. Instead, they are saying, "I'm sorry you're offended by me" with the implication that the offended should get over it. Maybe that's why the words don't seem to mean anything any more.
The shift has been subtle, but it's been devastating to this thing we call relationship. Most of us, at one time or another, have heard someone tell us to "be the bigger man" and apologize. Apologizing is the high road. Apologizing is a sacrifice. Apologizing is the greatest gift we can give to one another. ...Baloney.
Saying we were wrong does not make us the bigger man; it exposes our lesser man for all he is not worth.
The bigger man is the man who forgives.
When you apologize to someone, you put yourself in the empty space between you. You step into the disconnect, into the void, that has come because of your wrong. Not your "perceived" wrong; your actual wrong. Because if the space has come between you, it was wrong. Period. Yes, that means we apologize for things we don't think we should apologize for. Yes, that means we apologize for things we don't even know we did. Things we didn't mean to do. But still, we apologize and step into the void.
That gives the other man a choice. He can either forgive us or let us fall. If he forgives us, he catches us and we are in each other's hands again. If he lets us fall, we hit the ground hard but it's enough of a pain to remember. To remember that our life is painfully not our own. That our life is built in the web of people, the community, that is all around us.
I've recently found myself in a position to apologize. A lot. Some apologies are easier than others; some, I'm not sure how to make. As I tried to figure out the words I would us, the things I would say, as I fought the battle in my heart that says, "That's just who I am. So-and-so should know that by now," I heard that little voice that says just do it. Be the bigger man. And I knew he was lying because all I felt was my lesser man.
The bigger man is the one who, I hope, will forgive me. If he does, I'll find my lesser man a better man.
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