What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are small matters compared to what lies within us. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
When a New Year approaches, we reflect, consider, and if introspective, relive those moments that were not so pleasant. There are moments when anger, frustration and pain ruled instead of kindness, empathy and consideration.
An apology that comes from the heart, with a sincere effort and thought within us to treat the situation or person anew, can help to heal a hurtful situation. Mumbled words, if any are even said, are not contrite. Rather, they are said so that we can hurry off with a presumed clean slate and feel good about ourselves. However, apology and contrition is meant to be about the other person. The bad behavior is not to be rewarded or wiped away quickly before a Judgment Day. The behavior we show all year long is that which recalls for us how we should behave, could behave, and strive to behave.
An apology is hard to make. It is difficult to genuinely consider another’s feelings and acknowledge that what was said was inappropriate. There are feelings and painful experiences that we know nothing of and don’t acknowledge. You have many of your own. Saying “I’m Sorry” like you have a rash that you have to get rid of quickly is insincere. Even if you don’t think so, the recipient knows the difference.
But if the only way to get you to take the first step is to “fake it,” then at least keep repeating the apologies or attempt to say “I am Sorry” until it makes an impact. When you internalize the effort, you come to see the needs of someone else.
We are not merely meant to apologize and assume we have a clean slate. We are meant to give an apology with forethought and a desire to improve the situation, recompense, and consider how we could behave better in the future. There is no confessional booth waiting to tell us to say three verses and give charity that can heal the hurt or harm that someone can inflict on another.
Expecting someone else to continue to relieve you of your momentary guilt or an effort to cleanse your spirit and soul is unrealistic. The only person who can make a difference in how you think, feel, amend and behave is you. No one else is responsible for your bad behavior. No one made you hit someone, or verbally abuse them.
Part of apologizing, genuinely acknowledging the sorrow in the sorry, is recognizing your part in the hot-tempered situation and endeavoring to improve. It means taking and accepting responsibility for personal development. Each person has an ego and removing it from the heated argument is difficult. However, that is the difference between us and animals; we must think first then react, not the other way around.
Each time a people, or person, believe that they have found the reason to treat someone, or some race badly, they have stripped away another piece of humanity. The empathy and effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes slows down our racing adrenaline and forces us to think about why we are sorry and why the other person deserves the apology, but most importantly, why they deserve the mercy of compassion.
We were raised to believe that G-d is more merciful than man. I have seen it many times, and discussed it with my family, as they too acknowledge it. Some people grow up as bullies; a negative reinforcement of their bad behavior teaches them that if they scream or belittle someone else, they get what they want. So, the bullying behavior becomes ingrained as something that gets results. Bullying can begin in childhood or when they get to be physically bigger and more intimidating than someone else. Cyber bullying and the harmful, devastating and often permanent losses are public reminders of how deep and harmful the infliction of pain.
My husband is a fully grown man and a very hard worker; he manages others too. He is quiet, but aware of the personalities around him, and understands that a gentle or encouraging word is more effective at accomplishing something or making someone else feel good about helping. However, when he is screamed at and told that the other person does not care or does not want to hear “no” or any other response, my husband does what he has to in order to get the job done and avoid another confrontation. The fact that he does what needs to be done, despite the verbal abuse, and recognizes that the other person has issues, only shows his character and that he is thoughtfully aware of someone else’s needs.
However, the bully will rage another day because he saw that his screaming got him what he wanted. It is an immediate action taken to receive an equally fast reaction. There is no long term peace, nor understanding, because his gut reaction to behave badly means he is only thinking about himself. Getting what he wants is tantamount; the other person is merely a means to an end, a messy delay to getting what he wants as quickly as possible.
However, someone who asked in a nice way, or was honest enough to ask for help because of circumstance, would certainly get your input. Compassion, empathy and kindness breed more; we increase the positive side of our humanity and try to forgive those sides of ourselves that are more ego-driven. We acknowledge the incident and resolve to increase our personal Heavenly, G-d given attributes. We cannot forgive another without forgiving ourselves. We cannot make a change within until we try to make a more positive change around us. We must be the change we wish to see in the world and only we can make the effort to heal the World.