We’ve all been there, when a parent makes a small child say “sorry”, well before they have any comprehension of what the word means. They know the parent is cross, they know it’s something they did, they’ve no idea what was wrong, but they understand they have to say this word to be allowed to go play again. So it comes out as a resentful “sorreeeeeee”.
And thus, that child is set up for a lifetime of grudging apologies, mixed in with a few heartfelt acknowledgement of mistakes, and rather too many “sorry”s when someone else stands on their toes.
The reason I bring this up is that last week I watched the grown up version of this play out in an amplified fashion last week. But, being adults, rather than showing reluctance in a single, elongated word, they each wrote a justification of why they were right.
I’m not talking about this up to suggest anyone is to blame. I am highlighting what happens when we believe ourself separate. The point of this article is an opportunity for us to reflect when we’re acting out of a belief in division. Not to dive into fixing the action, but simply to see the impact. And if any one of us is saying “sorreeeeeee”, then we hold that misunderstanding equally.
When we strip back the fancy words, here’s what was said (be honest, I bet you’ve used similar, I know I have):
- I’m sorry you aren’t as virtuous and woke as me.
- I’m sorry that my huge personal capacity for love spilled over into needing to speak.
- I’m sorry you can’t follow a rational argument.
- I’m sorry that you are ignorant.
- I’m sorry you didn’t realise your opinion wasn’t valid here.
- I’m sorry that you don’t recognise my victim status bestows privileges.
- I’m sorry none of you realised I was only trying to help.
- I’m sorry if I was rude when I pointed out how terrible you are.
- I’m sorry that you didn’t follow my superior behaviour.
In other words, these apologies were mostly “I feel sad, and that’s your fault.”
Here’s why: when we believe that apparent limitation is truth, we seem to have a self that needs to be promoted and protected. Now, because that self is imagined, it’s never going to feel secure enough. We’re not only trying to fit the ocean into a bucket, the bucket doesn’t exist.
We’re going to stuff up. We’re going to get so fixated on a goal, we forget why we wanted it. We’re going to sometimes be very, very selfish. Not that placatory cliché “because we’re human”. Not that by-passy apathetic “because it’s all the same in Awareness”. Because we’re conditioned into it.
We’ve learnt patterns of thoughts, feelings and actions that are so habitual, they seem instinctive. They aren’t. They are patterns learnt to promote and protect that imagined self. But that self is not who we are – that’s the nub of this teaching.
Simply recognising who we are, the knowing which is the essence of all experience, the need to serve that imagined self becomes demanding. Pockets of conditioning get triggered still. But it’s not the foundation of who we are in the world.
Then, maybe rather than hollow words, the apology is “Sorry, I forgot myself for a moment.”
It’s not that easy of course. After years of over-justifying, defending and aggrandising, the first time you don’t do it, you might well feel it would be easier to unzip yourself from your skin and run away.
This feeling is not telling you anything about your thinking. It’s a deeply held, felt sense of being a person who needs to justify themselves to be okay. However much you rationalise it, you may feel under attack. That’s not a problem. Stay with it.
This isn’t about turning the blame on yourself instead of others. It’s about realising that blame is totally unhelpful. And more, that the only one who can blame or be blamed is that imagined self.
Just as the only one who would seek security is that imagined self. Here’s where the discomfort lies. We’re trying to acquire for a non-existent self that which is the essence of our nature. Which means we’re caught in a belief that we are what we’re not. The epitome of dissonance.
Why care? Because all this attention on “who did me wrong” is a massive distraction from actually engaging in life as it appears. In showing up more and more clearly as who we know ourselves to be – Awareness.
Rather than joining the battle of the self-promoting apologies, what if we live as though we are sorry, but not blaming, justifying, or seeking what cannot be found? What if we don’t even need to say the hardest word?