Saturday, October 12, 2013

the shame filled apology

I made a joke. I said it without thinking. I thought it was funny. The person who was with me when I made the joke didn't laugh, but we just continued on with our conversation. That's how it all began. A comment made, thought humorous at the time, entered into an otherwise ordinary conversation. A simple beginning.

Nearly a full day later I was thinking about the conversation and, into my mind, popped the comment that I made. Suddenly I was no longer thinking about what was said in our chat, I was thinking about what I had said in jest. From the distance of time, I heard that comment, the one where I was just joking, differently.

It was mean.

It was cruel.

It was disphobic.

It was completely unnecessary.

The realisation hit me hard. I couldn't believe I said what I said. I know better than that. I, obviously wrongly, thought I was better than that. The memory of what I'd said. The realisation of how deeply offensive it was. Began to bother me. I knew that if I'd heard someone else say it, I'd have blogged about them and their demeaning attitude towards people with disabilities. Case in point, that's what I'm doing now. Only the subject is me. It was me I overheard making an ass of myself.

A couple of days pass. I worry now about the only other person who knew I said what I said. She is someone I respect and someone who's respect I would like to have. I wondered if she noticed, then I knew that of course she did. Did I really want to draw a lot of attention to it? No. But I couldn't let it pass.


Just as I was leaving work I saw her in the hallway near my office, I stopped her and said, "I made a comment that I thought was funny at the time but now I realise was mean and cruel. I shouldn't have made it. I wish I didn't. I want to apologise to you for having said it. You may not remember what I said, I'm to ashamed of what I said to repeat it again, so I'm not going to. Anyways, for subjecting you to a joke that really was just mean. I'm sorry." It's hard to explain the depth of shame I had while making this apology. I didn't ever want to have to do something like that again.

She was kind. She said she didn't remember. She said that she'd done that from time to time, made a remark and then regretted it later. I appreciated her response.

I felt better. I could have gone on and let it go but then I wouldn't have let it go. The apology was given, and, in fact, deeply meant. The act of saying out loud to someone who heard me being less than I want to be that I was sorry to subject her to the part of me that still harbours disphobic sentiment mattered. She heard me. That's important. But I heard me too.

I think, maybe, I learned something in all this.

About me.

About the depth of ablist thinking and disphobic attitudes that still live somewhere at the back of my mind.

About my need to watch for the prejudice in me as much as I watch for it in others.


Eileen said...

I don't think you're alone in this Dave but isn't it sad the number of people who DON'T even realise that their use of language really hurts people.
I know we're all trying to make people aware of the hurt caused by the R word but there's another word being used over here which causes me anger, distress and real pain every time I hear it and it's the M word. I find it really difficult to put this in writing but I need people to know what it is... Mong. Writing that has really set me off, I now write with tears and with feelings of high anxiety. Why does it do that to us????

clairesmum said...

Your honesty with yourself, and your willingness to share such self examination in this space, amazes me. You remind me to try to be as honest with myself. Having compassion for self...that's as hard for me as being honest with myself.

pattib said...

My older brother once told me something that has stuck, when I told him of a similar mistake I had made. He said, "It's the recovery that matters." Excellent recovery, Dave.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

That you apologized and the apology was heartfelt, matters. WE are none of us perfect, Dave and if you must know, it's a relief to know that you - someone I admire and respect a great deal - struggles too.

I often rehash conversations in my mind and wince at some of the things I said - so, you are not alone here.

Bernie said...

Forgve yourself. I like pattib's comment. I always admire your ability to examine yourself, your honesty in doing so, and your constant striving to understand and better yourself. You set the bar high for the rest of us. I'm glad you do.

Jim Currie said...

I am racking my brains to figure out what kind of remark you could have made that seemed like a joke at the time, but in hindsight turned out to be disphobic.

Perhaps the fact that you did this may make you a little more accepting of the actions of others. It seems to be that you often see something as a deliberate slight when perhaps it may have been accidental or thoughtless.

Rosemary said...

None of us are perfect. We all say and do things we know are wrong. You realized your mistake and apologized. You can move forward from here. Hugs to you, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Jim Currie 13 08 commented 'Perhaps the fact that you did this may make you a little more accepting of the actions of others.’
I don’t get this, Dave didn’t accept his own action when it was ‘accidental or thoughtless’ so I think this is entirely consistent with Dave’s comments on actions that may have been 'accidental or thoughtless’- it’s not excusable to hurt others even if it is 'accidental or thoughtless', but those words I think don’t capture what happens when people collude with ablism and other forms of oppression.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Powerful stuff Dave. Thank you for being so honest. Such healthy self-awareness. Would we all be so humble.