I sat down at the computer tonight, after a day of gaming with some great friends, to write an apology note to a friend – to protect the innocent, we’ll call her Feather. Her and I engaged in a disagreement today, and I didn’t like the way it ended – I felt that I had wronged her, and wanted to apologize. I know, I know, the internet is hardly a good way to do that. Don’t worry, I fully intend to deliver the apology in person as soon as I get the chance. I wanted to pre-empt any hurt feelings as soon as I could and this was just the best way to do it.
Of course, it being me, I had to go back and re-read the apology three times before hitting the old “Send” button. I am really glad I did. The apology was terrible. Not counting the commas (twenty seven in two paragraphs) and the run-on sentences (all of them) it was a horrible apology. It was of the typical “Sorry you were offended, but that’s just the way I debate” variety. That’s not an apology. That’s a continuation of the argument. The more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of something a former friend of mine once said. To paraphrase him, “Yeah, I am an asshole, but that’s just the way I am. Sorry if you don’t like it, but that’s tough.” My gaming friends likely remember that chap, and we all remarked on the comment at the time. It was a ridiculous comment and to see that I had essentially copied it bothered me. A lot.
I have been spending a fair amount of time over the last year or so metaphorically staring at the man in the mirror, and I have to say, I don’t like him all the time. Not that I think I am a bad person, no one ever does really. I do have some characteristics that I don’t care for. They are characteristics that I really don’t want my sons to carry forward, but if they see me modeling those behaviors, they are sure to do so. Parenting aside, they are traits of mine that are that I am not proud of… no, that’s not strong enough. They are traits that I am downright ashamed of, and that needs to be fixed.
Now, before I go any further, let me be clear. Overall, I like myself a fair amount. I think I am a pretty decent guy. I’m no poster child for anything, and there is likely neither canonization nor a Nobel prize in my future, but overall, I think I do more good than harm in this life. I am not suggesting that I am spending all my time thinking about how loathsome I am. I’m just looking at my behavior and thinking about how I could be a better person.
I have no intention of listing them all here – I am vain enough to think you might care, but I don’t feel the need to share them all at this time. But this one thing, I am throwing out.
I have to be right, all the time. I try to justify it as being strong willed, or opinionated. That, like most justifications, is bullshit. If I hear someone say something that I think it wrong, or that I even disagree slightly with, I seem to have a tremendous inability to say nothing. I am compelled to “correct” that individual. Why? I have no idea. Never have, likely never will (though my shrink’s going to get an earful next time we talk) but that’s not the point. It is a problem. It alienates people. It hurts people that are important to me. It gives people the impression (sometimes accurately admittedly) that I don’t have a lot of regard for their feelings and opinions. And that is not the behavior of the person I want to be.
Who is that person? I have no idea. He’s me. He’s just a better version of me. He’s not taller or thinner, he doesn’t have better hair or whiter teeth. That stuff is nice, but it doesn’t define who a person is. We are defined by our actions. The face that we present to the world is not nearly as important as the manner in which we conduct ourselves.
So tonight I want to start something better.
Feather, I am sorry. I did not give you, or your opinions, the respect they deserved. I can tell that you feel passionately about certain topics, and I while I disagree, that does not give me the right to treat you, or your opinions, in the manner which I did. I won’t guarantee it won’t happen again, but I will guarantee that I am trying to rein in that sort of behavior and will make every effort to keep my damned mouth shut. Failing that, to give you the respect you deserve when we discuss things.
I am tempted to offer apologies to a lot of people, but the more I think about it, the longer the list becomes. That list includes the names of people I haven’t seen in decades, and the names of people that I saw today. So I will just say, to the universe in general, I am trying to be a better person, and I will make amends for the wrongs I have committed.