Monday, July 26, 2010

Apology

In the late 1700s, poet Alexander Pope wrote the now famous line, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” But where, I wonder, does apologizing fit in?

Being human, we each make mistakes frequently. No matter how diligent or intentional, we miss the mark time and time again. How we respond to our errors, though, shows us just what we’re made of. This is where we can shine out~~or not.

When we deny or excuse, avoid or minimize, the armor of our ego does more than just remain intact. An ego in defense mode runs amok, crazed with the need to defend against the truth of its failings. When we authentically admit our imperfections, however~~whether or not such acknowledgements are expected or accepted~~the opposite occurs. A chink appears in that armor.

And it is through openings such as this that Light can enter.

When we let go our incessant efforts at damage control and image maintenance, we can touch what author Eckhart Tolle describes as “the formless inner dimension of consciousness or spirit.” When we accept that we are insufficient, even deficient in many ways, we are poised to access at least a smidgeon of all our small selves are not.

Sometimes, when I realize I’ve hurt someone or behaved badly in some way, I notice myself begin to harden against the admission of my error. Excuses and counterarguments swirl around my brain. If I sit with these reactions awhile, though, I settle down. Blaming and justifications fall away, and I come to recognize that there truly is nothing to resist after all.

I am human, a work in progress. In the dance I do with my companions on this journey, less than graceful collisions often occur. Sometimes the missteps are mine, sometimes the other person’s. Often, we stumble over each other so quickly, it’s impossible to tell one foot from the other.

My blunders, though, are always mine to admit and to remedy. When I’ve moved in ways that are unkind or unhelpful, an apology is in order. The interesting thing about such an experience is how much better it feels to let go and relax into the truth of my fallibility. It is a long, soul-cleansing sigh. An apology becomes, then, an enactment of this process and its completion.

Being human is a lesson in humility. Yet, as we release into an acceptance of our limitations, something special can occur. “When you live in surrender,” Tolle writes, “something comes through you…that is not of this world.”

If it is human to err and divine to forgive, might a well~phrased apology form a bridge, a link between that which is of this world and that which is not? I think so.

When we acknowledge our flaws~~not in the safety of the abstract, but in the muck of the here and now~~we soften, and the shield of ego drops a bit. With that shield lowered, we become more accessible, not only to our fellow humans, but to that which is so much larger. In relaxing our rigid stance, we are better able to welcome the touch of the Divine.

We also just might come to question the whole idea of mistake. If, through admitting an error, I learn something, am opened further, and make peace with a fellow traveler, was it truly a mistake at all?

I’m not sure. The idea of living in surrender, though, is rather enticing, is it not?

Namaste, you perfectly imperfect human being, you!

Loanne Marie

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just picked up a new book to read - and low and behold - here is the opening quote:

What power has love but forgiveness?
In other words
by its intervention
what has been done
can be undone.
What good is it otherwise?

-William Carlos Williams,
"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"

The book is "Mercy" by Jodi Picoult.

Loanne Marie said...

And yet, a well-timed, well-phrased apology can do more than "undo" the wrong. It can elevate the whole incident and us along with it.

Love those coincidences, don't you?!!

Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

reminds me of these favorite lines from Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in!

Anonymous said...

As the old saying goes, "To forgive someone is to forgive yourself." Forgive your self for expecting perfection- perfection is a big word to live up to. Heaven is for perfection. Apology & Forgiveness is like a two-sided coin: letting go lessons for the gift of love.

Loanne Marie said...

Ah, dear Leonard! There IS a crack in everything and one has to assume this is how it's meant to be. I mean, like the next reader said, that perfection thing gets us in trouble all the time. Perfection is a humongous word, with a lot lumped into those 10 little letters! While things may indeed be perfect, they may not always appear that way to our earthly eyes. But if we just keep those eyes focused on the Light, we'll do okay.

And I LOVE the phrase, "letting go lessons for the gift of love". Wonderful! A perfect description for both apology and forgiveness! And for just about everything, it seems to me.

Thanks to both of you for writing!

Anonymous said...

I find it so much harder to forgive myself that others.
Lori

Loanne Marie said...

Ah, very good point, Lori! This is a stickler for many of us. To me, this seems part of the humility thing, but also part of the unlearning of old habits. Yes, we need to accept that we are "works in progress" and that our behaviors needn't reach some standard of perfection (that humongous word again!). But I think that many of us were taught views of ourselves and expectations about our "performance" that we now need to unlearn. We don't need to act in any certain way to prove our worth. We are worthy, just by being alive. And we, too, can be forgiven our mistakes--by others, yes, but by ourselves as well. Because to do otherwise, to hold onto that little (or humongous!) slice of self-blame, keeps us from shining out as brightly as the world need us to.

Shine on, Lori, and thanks for writing!

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Leia Marie