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There are times when apologizing is absolutely the right thing to do--timewise, it's usually **after** you've done something hurtful or regrettable in some other way. If you find yourself wanting to apologize during the course of doing something--QUICK! STOP AND THINK! Because that instinct may be trying to tell you not to do whatever-it-is.

The thing about apologies after the fact is that it's too late to keep from doing the thing. You may resolve not to do it in the future, but whatever it was, the harm's been done--that's what you're apologizing for. But if it's something you're currently **doing**, then you still have a choice. You can decide not to do it! And maybe that's what the instinct to apologize it trying to get you to realize.

Here's a time when I think it's okay to apologize while in the process of doing the hurtful thing: You're a doctor, and you're performing a procedure that's uncomfortable, but very helpful or necessary for the patient. "I'm sorry: this is going to hurt a little," you may say. By all means, go ahead and do the thing, though! Your apology is by way of an acknowledgment and a heads up. You're not really sorry for the thing you're doing (and no need to be); you're sorry for the discomfort accompanies it.

But this past weekend, I sat through a dreadful homily at church. It was dreadful in many ways that are irrelevant to what I'm writing here, but one way is relevant: it went on and on in a rambling fashion. The priest is **very** young and new, so probably his homilizing will improve with time. Right now, however, he recognizes that he rambles, and his way to handle it is to apologize mid-ramble... and then, at the very end of Mass, to take the opportunity to apologize some more--at rambling length, in fact.

THAT'S the sort of case in which your instinct to apologize is trying to get you to not-do the thing in question. Better than apologizing for rambling is just... not to ramble! You feel the apology rising up within you. That's your self-warning: I must wrap this up, get back to topic.

Same in writing. Sometimes I've found myself essentially writing, "Man, this is really getting long," or "I know this is probably hard to follow, but..." If I catch myself, I think, well, is it too long? Should I maybe cut it down? Or is it hard to understand? Maybe I should clarify.

Or, maybe it's long, but I need to trust that my readers will be delighted to follow along, or maybe it's complicated, but my readers are super bright and will get what I'm trying to say. In either case, the apology can go.

So far I've been talking about apologies for presentation, not subject matter. Sometimes the apology has to do with subject matter, and that's a very different cup of tea. I feel a whole lot less prescriptive about apologies in those situations--I think there are many approaches to how to discuss difficult topics.


Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
dudeshoes
Dec. 23rd, 2015 03:43 pm (UTC)
I am noticing that women in particular say sorry all day long, many times a day. I am actually working on cutting it out unless there is really something to be sorry for. And I have been reminding the women I work with to cut it out if it is just a reflex and they don't need to apologize at all. Count how many times a day a man says sorry. I think this is a deeper issue than may first appear. Your young priest excepted.
asakiyume
Dec. 23rd, 2015 03:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, I quite agree with you.

cucumberseed
Dec. 23rd, 2015 04:08 pm (UTC)
Should I maybe cut it down? Or is it hard to understand? Maybe I should clarify.

I need to get this tattooed. On my forehead. Backwards, so I can read it in the mirror.
asakiyume
Dec. 23rd, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC)
Nah, you're good. The next paragraph applies to you :-)
danceswithwaves
Dec. 23rd, 2015 06:38 pm (UTC)
I think there's also a context where you can apologize for the outcome (such as hurting someone) but not for the action you did (such as being honest about something). Though in said context it's important to see whether what you did was necessary and whether you could have done it without the outcome that you needed to apologize for.

Although, then, are you really sorry if you would have done the same thing again? Or does that fall under an ends vs means discussion...
asakiyume
Dec. 23rd, 2015 07:13 pm (UTC)
I guess that's similar to the doctor context: the person doing the apologizing feels that what they're doing is necessary and maybe beneficial, but there's pain associated with it. The question is whether it really is necessary and beneficial--and I imagine different people answer that differently.

Does the situation require one to speak out? That's a question I ask myself. There are lots of times when the world really doesn't need my two cents.
sartorias
Dec. 23rd, 2015 10:50 pm (UTC)
Good thoughts. Though sometimes apology is a defense mechanism--or a survival mechanism.
asakiyume
Dec. 24th, 2015 12:24 am (UTC)
Oh definitely. **Sometimes** an apology can be what I described up there, but other times it's other things --like just what it says on the tin, for one, but it can also be the things you mention.
blairmacg
Dec. 24th, 2015 03:13 am (UTC)
I've been working on similar concepts with the nephews, both to curb the unwanted behavior and to encourage the wanted behavior. :)
asakiyume
Dec. 27th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC)
I think you're an excellent coach and guide. I know you're having, and will continue to have, success, even though there'll be backsliding and detours from time to time.
duccio
Dec. 24th, 2015 05:22 pm (UTC)
What about if someone feels the need to apologize and realizes the urge is trying to point out something in their behavior, as you describe, that they should change, rather than continuously apologizng. Rather than apologize, they begin to try and change the behavior, and after awhile, feeling they have made progress in their endeavor, they then present the problem to people as a problem they are trying to solve, apologize for past error, and ask if they have been successful?
asakiyume
Dec. 24th, 2015 05:44 pm (UTC)
That sounds excellent to me.
seraphimsigrist
Dec. 31st, 2015 04:30 pm (UTC)
apologies
the priest is in a situation I have been in
it is lack of an exit strategy for a sermon
dreadful thing one must just stop
"well I have gotten off the track a bit maybe
but what I want to share is ... .... .... amen."
I see you unfriended me and it is earned because
while I post on livejorunal now I do not keep up
with friends ... miss you and our contacts of years
ago but now just use lj to make a permanent blog of
the transitory facebook where I make daily posts
if you are ever there would be a joy to reconnect
I am there seraphim j sigrist
and here yours with new years wishes
asakiyume
Dec. 31st, 2015 04:45 pm (UTC)
Re: apologies
Absolutely no apologies necessary--I hold you in highest esteem, and the unfriending doesn't represent pique or disappointment on my part but rather an acknowledgement on my own end that I'm not reading my friends list as much as I used to... so I'm trying to cut things much down.

I will friend you on Facebook and we'll be in touch there.

Best, best wishes for the New Year.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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