7 Wisdoms - Sorry
Keywords for Sorry
The association that is made between Sorry and guilt is a major concern because it often stimulates a defensive attitude of pride, which is really quite the reverse of what is required. Faults arise—and it is indeed sometimes through a carelessness that amounts to irresponsibility or even negligence, yet blame does not repair the damage, neither does it prevent recurrence. Responsibility does. The past is past; blame pulls us back. What works is to establish who is able and willing to respond to future needs.
People are programmed to believe that to say Sorry is to take the blame, and so there is nothing left to say to capture the meaning of: ‘I regret my insensitivity and feel sympathy and remorse for any distress it may have caused’. This does appear a healthier interpretation than ‘I’m guilty and therefore a bad person’ which seems to be what underlies the reluctance many people have to say Sorry.
It is useful to distinguish between the quality of pity or compassion and the quality of remorse. It is a gentle courtesy to express sorrow on receiving the news of someone’s bereavement—we might even say ‘I’m sorry to learn of your grandfather’s death’—yet this is not remorse; it is sympathy. Perhaps what we mean might be better put: ‘I am sorrowing to hear of your loss.’ Remorse suggests a feeling of regret that arises on discovering that something we have done, or omitted to do, has resulted in the pain or inconvenience of another. In other words: a) we accept responsibility, and b) we feel regret. Without these two factors, any apparent expression of remorse will seem inappropriate or hollow, lacking sincerity.
A person who is fully self-responsible and sensitive to the feelings of others will feel remorse if their behaviour impinges painfully upon another—and will hurry to make amends. That bit is rather important—to make amends. ‘If it’s my fault, then it’s my responsibility to repair the damage’. Only then will both parties be able to release any emotional issues that have arisen and truly to forgive and forget.
In most cases—at least on a personal level—the primary requirement to relieve injury is to offer attention, so that the person quickly understands that there is recognition that they feel hurt or inconvenienced by our insensitivity. Attention is a real force; it has effect. Allowing someone the opportunity to speak of their pain, to complain and even to criticise or blame, we are helping them to release—which is nicely described as ‘letting off steam’. Often there may well additionally be a need for appropriate material compensation to a level that satisfactorily deals with the injured party’s feelings.
Perhaps we can renew our sense of what forgiveness is, and how to practise it more easily by making it a bit more everyday and ordinary—not linked to pride, blame and guilt. Something more like this: ‘I’m not attached to an image of myself as faultless, my behaviour was wrong or insensitive and I regret causing pain or inconvenience. I feel remorse and ask for forgiveness in order to release the emotional tension arising out of possible resentment’. If an experience of Sorry is true and profound, then all issues are dissolved. Forgiveness arises; the past hurts and resentments become softer and softer until we can actually forget the insult or intrusion. .
The wisdom of SORRY
Perhaps in Please we became aware of a life-vision, and now with Sorry we have a higher degree of awareness of why that vision has to be so. It’s to do with refinement. The refining process is described with the keywords of Sorry—beginning with responsibility; developing the feeling of remorse, then repairing the damage so that we can release our attachments to the past.
There are often difficulties arising in life where two motives collide, acted out by individuals or groups and sanctified as causes, creeds, political imperatives and so on. Also there is the more straightforward case where the desire of one doesn’t reconcile with the desire of another. This is so often the case that we can safely see it as the normal life condition; certainly it’s the one that wins most of our attention. We wouldn’t have much of an entertainment industry if our books and films had a story line based on harmony: Woman meets man; they build a lovely house and family together, never have any problems or disagreements and spend their time appreciating the flowers, until they simultaneously die of natural causes aged 92. As a story it rather lacks bite doesn’t it?
The collision of motivations offers us what we actually want and need out of our time on Earth. We may think we yearn for unending harmony and yet there’s no evidence for this except the myth of fairy stories that allow protagonists to live happily ever after. (After the collision has been resolved, incidentally). We want collision in order to refine identity, in order to deepen involvements, in order to come to a better knowledge of others and ourselves. Yet there is no need for collision to be seen as beyond our capacity to handle. We can grow to meet the challenges, and the proof that we have grown lies in whether we can release them.
q21 - 3 questions
Do your friends see humility in you?
This question is really quite tricky. How do we know what our friends see? And how can a humble person easily record a very high score without seeming to lack humility? We are trying to access an ability to see things from the other viewpoint, a process called reflexive self-consciousness. Mastery of each of the 7 Words is shown by our ability not to actually have to say the words because we have embodied the state itself. To do away with the need to say Sorry requires us to show some remorse if we have caused pain and with humility, see the other person’s point of view.
Are you relatively free of guilt?
This question is also profoundly correlated with happiness. From a truly spiritual perspective, guilt is always wrong – and blame too. So whatever we do that is motivated by guilt or blame will always lead towards an unsatisfactory result. We need to avoid that behaviour, whatever the cost, and to let go of guilt – or our chances of joy are very significantly diminished.
Are you a person who can forgive and forget?
We all do what we think is right. If we think that someone is doing something wrong then it’s just because their model of the world is different to ours. It explains all the friction and resultant conflict. Forgiveness is more than excusing someone’s bad behaviour; it is much more. Forgiveness is a state of grace that enables a person to release resentment and be fully responsible for everything that they experience in life. It heals the poison of blame and guilt.
7 Words Concepts
Attention has attitude.
"Among all my patients in the second half of life ... there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life."