Monday, June 29, 2015
What is a Genuine Apology?
The word apology comes from the Greek word “apologia.” Apologia means “explanation.” Therefore, an explanation is the main and most important part of an apology. An apology is not merely saying the words, “I am sorry.” If an apology is to be more than saying, “I am sorry,” it must include an explanation of the wrongdoing as well as an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. One cannot give an explanation of wrongdoing before or without an acknowledgement of the details of the harm done.
People harm others all the time and they may apologize. I am concerned that some apologies are given for the wrong reasons. Are the apologies given to the right person? Is the apology given by the right person? Is the apology given for the right reasons? Did the apology bring about the right results?
A genuine apology must be given directly to the offended. The offender must claim their fault in no uncertain terms and words. There should be no minimizing their guilt or the extent of harm. A good apology should sound like, “I am sorry for what I did to you. I have no excuses for my behavior. I know I hurt you.” Statements like, “I am sorry if you think I hurt you,” are not an apology.
Whenever possible, the offender must give a genuine apology to the victim directly, not through a third party. The offender must (1) acknowledge their fault, (2) acknowledge the harm and pain they have caused to the offended, (3) show remorse for the wrongdoing and explain the reason without excuses, and (4) find a way to repair the damage done. Only then may the offender request (not expect or demand), forgiveness.
Reparation must fit the harm done. Remorse and reparation should be offered with the goal to help the victim regain his/her respect, honor and somehow repair the damages suffered. Inadequate remorse and unfitting reparation can cause more harm. For example, some victims of sexual abuse have described feeling like prostitutes when money was offered by the offender as reparation for the insult, pain and lost honor. When Japanese Americans were given $20,000 as reparation by the American government for keeping them in concentration camps for 4 years during World War II, one Japanese American victim stated, “The American government stole 4 years of my childhood and has now put a price of $5,000 for each stolen year. It would have been better to receive no financial settlement.” The victim was not satisfied with the apology or the reparation. It was obviously not a successful apology.
Depending on the harm done, appropriate and genuine reparation can sometimes be as simple and symbolic as a compliment, offering a drink or dinner. Or, it could be as large as publicly shaming yourself for the wrongdoing against the offended. The offender has to find a way for the victim to feel heard, acknowledged and safe in the relationship by making sure that the victim’s needs are fulfilled.
The apology has to be about the victim, not about the offender.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Inter-faith conflict resolution
Let’s talk about an inter-faith marriage. The groom and bride are both from East Indian families but their families do not belong to the same religious backgrounds. The groom’s family is Hindu and the bride is from a Christian family. On the surface they look the same, they speak the same language, like the same food and music. As soon as the families heard about the possible marriage proposal they were not happy and were skeptical about what the future of this inter-faith union would be. The families were not willing to inter-mingle and were not willing to accept a person from a different faith into their family. The couple was given all the reasons why they must not be together. The families were worried and asked the couple what religion would their children follow if/when they decided to have any children.
Because traditionally in an Indian origin marriage the bride automatically becomes part of the groom’s family and follows their traditions, there were even talks about what happens when the bride passes away (dies). Would she be buried according to her own Christian family traditions or she would be cremated per her married Hindu family traditions? Both families threatened to disown their children if the couple did not obey their family’s traditions to marry in their own faith.
Basically the two families were giving all the reasons for the couple to not get married because they did not see a united family structure as both the families dreamed to have with their expanded in-law family. Despite all their efforts the two families were not able to convince the young couple to fall apart. The couple went and got married without the blessings of the families. The families were disappointed. To make the situation even worse, the bride and groom were the only daughter and son for the families. If the families stayed upset at the couple and disowned them as they threatened them earlier, they would lose their only children and any hopes of playing with their grandchildren in future.
The time passed and the couple was going on with their lives together. They were overall happy except they did not have the blessings of their families and had to always schedule times to visit with them separately. The groom’s family never completely accepted the bride so the groom would go visit his family off and on by himself, rarely with his wife and the visit was always awkward. The bride’s visits with her family were not any better. Her family always nagged and complained about her husband and her in-law family.
Since they all lived close by, they were all making it work, until the couple met with a horrible car accident. The wife got really badly hurt and was in the ICU. While she was in the hospital they found out that she was pregnant. Due to the accident and the medications she had to take for her injuries, the doctors cautioned the couple to be very careful with the new pregnancy. The wife was placed on bed rest for next few months till they were sure the pregnancy was not in any danger. Her husband was taking care of her while trying to heal himself. The families were taking turns to cook for them and help them with chores and errands. While both extended families were praying to their individual Gods for the safety and health of their children, it was becoming very difficult for all of them to stay out of each other’s ways.
Whenever the parents on both sides got a chance they tried to complain and find faults with the other family. The wife was still healing from her injuries and was now also nursing a difficult pregnancy when one day her father came in to her room to ask her if she was okay. By force of habit, she said she was fine. As soon as she said that, she stopped her dad and said to him, “Actually no, I am not fine. I am tired of lying to myself and to all of you. I am really not fine. I am in pain and I am not sure if I will be able to save my unborn baby. I am terrified. But, more than all that I am tired of trying to play a referee between all the complaining and moaning. I just want all this complaining to end. I love you and I love my husband and his family. We are all family. I need you all to get along. I do not wish to bring my baby in this world where we can’t all be happy with each other. Like it or not we are one family.”
Hearing her daughter in physical and emotional pain broke her father’s heart and his ego. He was standing there, stunned and proud of her daughter. He knew he loved his daughter too much to cause her anymore suffering. He knew he had to do something. He just hugged her and asked her to forgive him for making it difficult for her.
He knew he could not do it alone. He knew that the grievances have been built over a long period of time. Deep down he knew he respected his son-in-law for being a good partner and husband for his daughter. He did not know how to convince the rest of his family and the groom’s family to agree and play nice.
So, he called a mediator family friend to help. The mediator knew the families and the situation very well and agreed to meet the families separately to hear their grievances. He reminded both families of the love they have for their children and reminded them of the love they see their children (young couple) have for each other. He encouraged both families separately to admit that they were just holding on to their egos while they all knew their children had chosen well when they found each other and fell in love. The mediator encouraged them to admit that now they all are one family. With the new baby coming in the family they were about to share a grandchild together. The mediator was able to help both families see what was at stake if they did not forgive each other for the past grievances and helped them learn to live in peace and harmony together.
The mediator asked both families to acknowledge that they were worried about the baby and were separately praying for the welfare of the mother and the baby health. They also understood that the constant added stress from their bickering was not good for the baby’s health. If anything happened to the baby, it would devastate the mother, father and the grand parents equally.
Once the families were able to acknowledge their love for their children and the grandchild, the mediator brought both the families together in one room. Now he reminded all of them of the condition of the new mom to be and the stress she is under. When everyone agreed that they were worried for her health and for her pregnancy, the mediator asked them to think of how they could help reduce the stress for the new mom and reminded them of the risk of losing the baby if they don’t. He also reminded them to think about what their relationship would be with their children if they lost the baby and blamed it on the stress.
Both the families loved their children and grandchild enough to swallow their pride and try to reconcile for the sake of their family’s greater good. The mediator congratulated them for being conscious of the bigger picture and encouraged them to fake it till they make it. They all agreed to try and be friends as they share their new grandchild.
Monday, June 15, 2015
Blessed to have Friends
Last night, I had a ‘heart to heart’ with a friend (let’s call her Sally). Sally is a wonderful artist and a businesswoman. Overall, she’s a happy and positive person. After a long conversation she brought up the subject of her boyfriend who I had met just a few months ago. She told me that she had broken up with him because he had become controlling and disrespectful of her and her work.
I understood all too well when Sally said she regretted that she had invested a lot of time and heart in someone who was not worthy of her, and at the same time, missed the companionship.
Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:
Sally: I broke up with him a while back and I am so much happier now. He ended up being really controlling. A pattern I had to break and deal with.
Me: I am happy and sad for you at the same time. It is definitely important to take care of yourself, and if letting go of someone is what you need to do then that is what has to be done.
Sally: I just have to make sure each step is fruitful. Amazing, how all our experiences were meant for us to learn and help others understand. It was a blessing in the end and I have no regrets. The only thing is that time is going by so fast and we have no control over it.
Me: Maybe there is only so much time because we only have so much to do.
Sally: Exactly, LOL!
Me: So, I try to be happy with what I am able to do and let go of and forgive myself for what I can’t.
Sally: Very wise words my friend! It is so true.
Sally’s experience was an important reminder - Don’t let someone get comfortable with disrespecting you. Our past experiences make us strong and wise for new experiences. But just as important are friends that can share and learn from each other. I am blessed and grateful for my friends!
Monday, June 8, 2015
It is okay to be Angry but it is not okay to be Cruel.
If you are angry, please take a few minutes to calm down so you can be rational, and remember to be kind before you respond.
Like Mom said, "If you can’t be Kind, be Quiet." This advice has helped me in more ways than I ever thought possible.
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
Be mindful when it comes to words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.
Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
1. Is it True?
2. Is it Necessary?
3. Is it kind?
And then if you are still angry please check to see:
1. Does it have to be said now?
2. What could be the consequence of saying it?
3. Can I express my anger in a constructive, kind way?
I am not asking you to deny or silence your angry feelings. Instead I encourage you to honor your feelings by saying what you mean without being perceived as mean spirited.
Be your own kind of Beautiful!