July 31, 2007

The Art of Apology

None of us is perfect. As a result, we miscommunicate, misinterpret, malign, calumniate, and engage in otherwise injurious behavior. Yet, we are victims of our own self-made karma. When we injure another person, we injure ourselves. Some of my readers will acknowledge this in a spiritual sense, considering the effect of base behavior on the soul. Still, others will acknowledge this in a practical sense; such behavior damages potential or existing social supports. Still, others will think of our own behavior damaging ourselves in a psychological way. We tend to change our thinking to be in line with our behavior which, in turn, informs future behavior. If we make it a point to damage others when we can, we will become villainous opportunistic people.

Most people, secular and religious, prescribe to the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Even still, many of us fail to achieve this standard on a regular basis. Yet, each of us has a tool that can soften the impact of our interpersonal violence (whatever form it may take) and assist us in the future to behave in a manner that engenders our own ethics. We are capable of apologizing.

People use apologies frequently and to achieve many ends. Some people use apologies to make themselves feel better. Others use them to make others feel better. Some use them to clear the air and make an effort to move forward with people that they don't like. Some people have even turned the apology into an effete ploy for social acceptance or praise. There are many self-serving uses of an apology that you, dear reader, can enumerate further on your own time. However, I argue that there is only one truly valuable use of the apology.

We've all seen siblings somewhere (or been the siblings) whose parent is shouting at them to apologize "like you mean it!" This child clearly cannot value an apology at the present moment and the only thing the parent is teaching the child is how to be an actor. I hope that he/she earns a lot of money when he/she grows up. No one can be forced to truly apologize, it must come from within and it has a very simple requirement.

Using apology in order to achieve one's own ends is a defunct use of the apology. Rather, the ideal apology will be entirely motivated by contrition. Contrition has been defined as sorrow for and detestation of sin with a true purpose of amendment, arising from a love of God for His own perfections (perfect contrition), or from some inferior motive, as fear of divine punishment (imperfect contrition). While some of my readers may be, perhaps, put off by the references to God. I suggest that a secular definition can arise that can be agreed on by many. Contrition, then, may be described as sorrow for injury that one has caused another with a true purpose of amendment. A person who does not feel this way should not apologize. It is a lie to apologize for a malicious act that carries insufficient contrition. Worse, it is an insult to the intelligence of the person who has been injured to suggest that they do not know that it is insincere.

Let's say we've hurt someone and we want to apologize. We feel bad about what happened and wish that we could exorcise it from having happened. Cast a spell and return to the previous situation. Unfortunately, this cannot happen and, just like recovering from any form of trauma, in order to move on, it must be acknowledged as having happened and integrated into everyone's schema of the world in order for the apology to be effective. This means that it is necessary to swallow our pride and belief in self in order to become humble and openly acknowledge that we have engaged in behavior that was less than becoming.

The next step for us in carrying out our ideal apology is to approach the person or people that we have hurt. This is probably the biggest challenge. Many people feel terrible about hurting others but are either ashamed of their behavior or are afraid of the reaction they will get if they make an effort to be conciliatory. This can become compounded to such a degree that an abuser begins to feel that he or she is actually the victim whose voice has been lost. Often, we must force ourselves to swallow our own feelings of victimization and doubt about approaching someone. In the event that we have unintentionally hurt someone, this is less difficult.

Now that we have approached those whom we have hurt, we must formulate our apology. It can start with, "I would like to apologize," however, this phrase is insufficient. It expresses a desire to apologize; it is not an apology in itself. It must be followed by, minimally, a sincere, "I am sorry." It is better if it describes a specific behavior, for example, "I am so sorry that I ruined your skating career when I hired my boyfriend to club your knees." An even better apology expresses earnest contrition, describes the specific behavior that was hurtful, and identifies what about the behavior is now recognized as being particularly hurtful, in no specific order. For example, "When I pushed for stronger laws regulating the interaction between congressmen and pages, I secretly was hoping to better regulate my own behavior as well as advance my political career, it was selfish and hypocritical and I hurt and shocked a lot of people, least of all my loyal constituency, I am so very sorry."

While the delivery of the apology is very important, the next step in the apology is making a commitment to amend the situation or ameliorate the damage to some degree. This is the most important step because it shows that we care about what our future behavior will be like. This is the seal of an apology, it informs the recipient, "there is a measurable way that you will know that I am following through on my apology." This can be simple, we might say, "I'm sorry that I almost ran you over with the fork lift, I was operating it improperly, in the future, I will always operate it properly so that I won't make the same mistake again." It should not be a sacrifice that is not appropriate to the injury. It would be strange to say, "I'm sorry I scuffed your floor with my black shoes, it was irresponsible of me, I'll come over and clean your floors every day for a year." Buh, who wants us in their home every day for a year? A good example of an apology with appropriate amendment would be, "I am sorry. I allowed my selfishness to impede good stewardship of the company and that has cost the employees a great deal in their pension funds. I wish that I had not stolen the money. However, now that it is gone, I will dedicate myself to repaying the entirety of the lost money."

So, remember, if you don't feel like apologizing, don't. People will know that you don't mean your apology and respect you less for that. Furthermore, you won't feel good about yourself unless you apologize when you're truly contrite. When you do apologize make sure that you describe the behavior that was injurious, let the person know that you know why it was injurious, express your contrition, and make a commitment to improve your behavior in the future. If the person to whom you are apologizing refuses to forgive you, that's something you must accept and move on. Let them dwell in the past, you can dwell on how you're behaving right now and make an effort to not need to apologize for what you're doing.

Posted by Mendon at 7:43 PM | Comments (4)

July 29, 2007

Rae's Visit: Blueberry Pancakes Every Day

Rachael is out for the weekend and we've been having a lot of fun. Well, I've been having a lot of fun, anyway. I hope that everyone else has been. Rae came in on Thursday morning and I learned how to use the CTA train and took it down to Midway to pick her up and come back. I took the morning off work (as I couldn't get out of the afternoon staff meeting) and we chilled, had some tea and pancakes, and I got the Settlers of Catan in the mail. Then it was off to work. Rae took a nap because she was exhausted. The evening was pretty relaxed. We went to the store and bought some ingredients for pizza, made pizza, and then made sleeping noises until Friday morning.

On Friday, work was hosting an all day art festival for our members. The members invited friends and family and one spaced out high girl wandered in accidentally. Rae joined us for the festival and got to meet and chat up some of our members. I think that it would be an excellent field trip for anyone to make to go and visit a clubhouse. Just like living abroad, it shatters stereotypes and breaks down fear of the unknown. Friday night, Andrew came over and we failed to finish a game of Nippon Rails that Rae was probably going to win, anyways. Instead, we watched the 40 year old virgin. It was hilarious.... there is nothing I can say about it to convince anyone that it was as good as it was. After all, it is titled, "The 40 Year Old Virgin."

Yesterday (Saturday), was full of excitement. We woke up at about 7:00 and went up to the YMCA to play racquetball and go swimming. Then, we took the train downtown (i.e. to downtown Chicago) to go to the Field Museum. I really would like to make it to the field museum but the lines were long and more than one of us had to go to the bathroom. So, we left and wandered through Grant park, home of Millenium Park, in search of something to munch on. While we wandered through, we came across large globes with the shapes of the continents on them. Each globe had been designed differently by artists suggesting different ways to reduce the impact that mankind is having on the warming of the planet. Some of the globes had quotes on them or paid homage to those people who have worked hard to improve the environment. Other globes made specific points. Perhaps the most memorable was the two faced globe. On one side, amidst contemporary practices, the planet looked wan and sweaty. On the other side, the face on the planet looked cool and refreshed. Still, other globes advocated pushing for more and better technology. one globe had a "sweater" on it (suggesting that we should turn off the AC and turn down the thermostat in the winter). It was fun and fascinating.

After making use of a port-o-loo we walked up to the Bean and I took a picture of Rae with the Bean. R.T. Bean with Arty Bean.... I crack myself up! We stopped off at Moonstruck, a Chicago chocolatier and had some of their chocolate (it wasn't as good as I remembered it being). We called it a day, and headed out for the train. Walked underneath the city on strange subterranean roads, had an interesting encounter with a homeless man, and finally found our way back to a train station.

When we got home we made dinner. Macaroni and cheese with steamed broccoli and hot dogs on the side! It was hilarious. Especially, at the grocery store, Rae and I wandered around frustrated that we were having so much difficulty finding franks that met our standards (we ended up settling on Johnsonville hotdogs... not as good as we would have liked, we were looking for the real thing. you know, beef or pork stuffed into intestines). Now that we're all grown up, we still like the food of our childhood but we demand that it actually taste good (I made medium shells and covered them in a cream, cheddar, and parmesian cheese sauce, you get the idea).

Even though we were exhausted, we even managed to play a game of Settlers of Catan before being so exhausted from playing, working out, and walking all day in the sun. Kristen, of course, soundly defeated both myself and Rachael (you'd think she'd like playing games more often, considering what her winning percentage is!)

And, now, here we are, chilling on Sunday. Thinking about going to see a show, a real show, with marionettes!!! And it's free:) If you come out before August 19th we can take you to the show, too. Maybe we'll play a game, maybe we'll stop off at a picnic some of our friends are going to. There's a lot of stuff that we can do, today. But for now, Rae and Kristen are off to do some window shopping and I'm going to chill here for a little bit.

Posted by Mendon at 10:45 AM | Comments (6)

July 24, 2007

"...ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you."

Posted by Mendon at 6:46 PM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2007


It's been a while since I last posted. To be honest, I don't post frequently anymore because I feel like my readership is down. Perhaps, I'm not a good writer. Either that or my family isn't that interested in what's going on with me or don't want to hear my rants. However, today, something happened that was worth reporting on.

No, it isn't that Andrew was standing in Panera when an old lady drove her car through the restaurant and hit nine people. Yes, this did happen today and, no, Andrew wasn't hurt.

It's not a lame update that I have a job and an apartment and feel, finally, moved in. It isn't about how we're adjusting to life in the Big City or how it's nice to be in a city that doesn't shuffle its homeless people off to somewhere else.

It's about a letter that I received from AG Edwards. This letter is priceless. It isn't priceless because it was documenting the move of funds from one account to another, in that respect, it is worthless (we already know, thanks guys). No, it's priceless for how it reads:

Home Phone: 847 - ***-****
Retired?: No
Occupation: Case Manager
Employer Name: Syke Temps

I'm still laughing. Can you imagine if Syke Temps actually existed? What would they specialize in?

"Well, we hired a temp for a little bit but he hasn't showed. Did you call the temp agency to ask about him?"

"No, I'll do that now." Dials. "Hello, this is Bill Crosby at WilPower, yeah, unhuh, unhuh, No, I'm 32, white, and was never on television. I was wondering, where's that temp we hired?"

"He'll be right over...
Syke! We never sent anyone!"

Posted by Mendon at 6:24 PM | Comments (10)