You had your way, now you must pay
I’m glad that you’re sorry now
-Bert Kalmar/Harry Ruby/Ted Snyder
WHO’S SORRY NOW
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management
Forgiveness is the sweetest revenge
Aw, Sandy that’s the most you should expect from life, a really good apology for all the things you won’t get.
-Herb Gardner’s “A Thousand Clowns”
Always Forgive Your enemies-nothing annoys them so much.
“I’m sorry.” Right off the top of my head I can think of a few people for whom it might be prudent of me to utter these words to. Sometimes, I am so at odds with the world that I feel I should apologize just for being. I don’t mean to offend, I just do. And while nobody’s feelings should be minimized, it seems that these days too many folks detect offense with every turn of a phrase. The slightest mundane whisper is translated as an insulting howl. There are some who find offense with basic honesty. But honest opinions delivered absent of cruelty and devoid of duplicitous intent, particularly when the opinion is delivered in response to a remark or a question by the other party in a mutual discussion, should never result in the pain of remorse. However, responding with compassion for the perceived afflict-ed’s pain might be appropriate.
In a culture where insensitivity seems to run rampant too often, it is heartening to witness expressions of sincere regret for an unkind statement or action. On the other hand, I believe far too many people express apology unnecessarily. Perhaps this is a sort of societal over compensation in a time when our leaders feel the very concept of apology is over rated and unnecessary.
Apologizing for being ill and missing an appointment shouldn’t be caked with the type of remorse consistent with a thoughtless or hurtful remark. Apologizing for unintentionally stepping on someone’s toes, should not carry with it the same lingering discomfort as a willful and literal slap in the face or a caustic and emotionally scarring remark,such as a derisive comment about the spouse’s new hairdo. In the latter, the offender would be getting off easy with just an apology. And no, I am not speaking from experience. Even I am not quite that stupid. I am allowed, by the way, to insult my own intelligence and I am fortunately aware of its limits. Thoughtlessness is another story; the jury is still out on that charge.
Of course, the other side of the apology coin is forgiveness. I sincerely believe that apology should almost always be greeted by an expression of pardon. Apologies may not exactly coincide with the feelings of the person offended but if one truly feels that they can foresee an offer of amnesty, it is likely best to make the offer before the wound festers. An enduring relationship of substance shouldn’t be sacrificed to a careless utterance or an overindulgence of foolish pride. Of course, if the apology isn’t sincere and the offended cannot anticipate healing then the idea of forgiveness might have to stay on the shelf of possibility until the wound is properly healed. One would hope that the shelf does not collect too much dust.
Often the line of offense is indecipherable, and enveloped in our pettiness, anger and biases,we fail to see this line even when its clarity is apparent to almost anyone endowed with a modicum of common sense. The shortcomings informing so much of our too common humanity, absent obvious and overt cruelty, should be understandable enough though, to warrant at least a conditional absolution even in the most painful moments. Grudges are poisonous only to the holder. Stewing in the toxins of guilt is just as harmful and unnecessary when a sincere expression of remorse is available but for the fault of pride.
The fourth Thursday of November is the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday and we are once again on the cusp of still another day of football, turkeys and rich desserts, not necessarily in that order. It is also, unfortunately, a time when the dinner table too often morphs into a battle ground of rhetorical warfare. We opt to turn our arsenal of nouns, verbs, and adjectives against each other while the past and future participles of our common-sense dangle all around us. Let Uncle Joe rant about “these kids today”; it is more than likely tomorrow morning he won’t remember where he left his teeth. Remember, someone once said “the meek shall inherit the earth” but it might be a good idea on this day to emulate such meekness at the table without verbalizing it because quoting the bible, aside from saying grace, could open a whole other can of unappetizing worms. Frankly, the indigestion is not worth it.
The historical accuracy of the Thanksgiving holiday may be as disputable as much of our history, culture and politics, but the aspiration of the holiday is without question. This Thursday, even in such disturbing times, let us value each other and express gratitude for what we share. Let us cherish such a repast with loved ones while understanding that others around this planet do not enjoy the same good fortune. Let us try to avoid the causes of insult and injury we meander into so easily so that we may make unnecessary, at least for one day, a compelling reason for apology or forgiveness. And remember starting today Santa is watching very, very closely. Lastly, I offer a sincere apology to anyone I may have unknowingly offended recently. Now, pass the cranberry sauce, please. And have a great Thanksgiving!