Friday, May 30, 2008

Forgiving Friday

It’s not that I hate apologising. I don’t dislike apologising at all if I’m wrong – which I am often. In fact, I’d say the ability to say you’re sorry comes high up my list of redeeming features in people. If you can do it I think more of you not less.

What I really loathe is when sorry means “I’m sorry I got caught and just as soon as you turn your back I’m going to be at it again.” That’s not an apology.

Sometimes my children have turned, at my request that they apologise, and hissed ‘but it was an accident.’ Taking responsibility for a mistake or accident and being sorry is something I’ve encouraged as a courtesy. Maybe that means ‘I’m sorry you’re hurt’ rather than ‘I’m sorry I hurt you’ but it’s something to do with the human condition that they have empathy toward someone who is hurting for whatever reason.

Of course, being English, apologising comes high up my list of daily activities. I do it a lot. But you know you overuse the sentiment when the changing room assistant in The Gap in New York comments on the number of times you’ve told her you’re sorry in the forty five seconds you’ve been in there. I guess I mean ‘Excuse me’ in many cases.

Today I am squirming with embarrassment. I’m mortified. I’ve had to apologise, which wasn’t difficult because I was in the wrong. It’s not the being sorry though that makes me feel utterly ashamed it’s the knowledge that I lost control of my reaction to something. Getting angry in Thai culture isn’t done; you lose face. Their opinion of you diminishes. And I think that’s the problem. It’s the way she may now feel about me.

But for me, it's nothing to do with Thai culture: it's part of my way too. It takes me right back to being told off by my headmaster in junior school. I didn’t mind apologising for the deed I’d committed. What makes me cringe with humiliation to this day is the way he, the headmaster and a family friend, might feel differently about me now he knew that I was capable of such horrible behaviour.

Still, I guess that’s what forgiveness is about, isn’t it? Maybe I need to work on that.


SueG said...

Ooh. I hate that feeling of humiliation/embarrassment when you know you've done something "wrong" and you have to apologise. Thankfully it doesn't happen as often as it used to when I was younger, but when it does, it is the same exact horrible feeling as when I was a kid. But maybe recognising it and talking about it means we're actually growing up, after all?

JJ said...

It's horrible isn't it? And yes, I guess you're right that at least it happens very rarely as an adult!