Not that long ago, I wrote about an experience I’d had with a woman, where I felt my blackness (among other things) was being called into question. The piece that I wrote was an immediate response to the moment, while at the same deeply rooted within past experiences, written with very little thought of the bigger picture. By “bigger picture” I mean several things—including how the person I’d written about might respond to my words, and equally important, the personal baggage from my past that I had been carrying at the time of the conversation. In the moment, I was angry, and hurt, and I was doing that thing that I do, which is write. I use words to express my feelings, to share my experiences, and at time, these words can be like weapons. At times, I forget this fact, and wield my words recklessly, tossing them about like bricks or Molotov cocktails, and not giving any thought to how they may land, where they may land, or who they may injure when they come crashing down.
To give greater context to the experience that led to this particular blog post, I should say that the person in question—we’ll call her Lady X—is someone I have known for a long time. I consider her to be a good friend, I admire her greatly, and would be lying if I said that her opinions didn’t matter to me. As is apt to happen in many friendships, Lady X and I had not spoken for a long time (about two years), until we recently reconnected. Many of our conversations in the past have become intense—some might say heated—but there was never any intentional malice between us. We both just happen to be to be two very intense people, with a well-established history of speaking our minds.
I’m not going to speak for Lady X by trying to explain where she was coming from during the conversation that left me in such a rage. To her credit, she Apologized to me after the fact. Of course, I had already pulled out my arsenal of words, lobbed a few grenades, and proceeded to forget about it all as I walked away from the explosion. Lady X’s Apology was sincere, and it helped to heal the pain that been inflicted…until she happened on to the blog, and read the post.
Rather than hide from the consequences of what I had written, I decided to talk to her openly and honestly. I also offered an Apology, with a capital A. Like I said, Lady X had already Apologized for what had happened. In her explaining where she was at when all the unpleasantness occurred, I began to see the bigger picture. Part of that bigger picture was me carrying around a lot of bullshit from own past, and allowing that to dictate how I responded to her. It is with all honesty and the most sincere regret, that I admit to not listening to what Lady X was really saying. Instead, I was hearing the echoes of past conversations/discussion/fights, none of which had anything to do with the moment.
The problem so many of us have is that we move through life, experiencing both good things and bad things. We often hold on to these with an equally firm grip. In holding on to these experiences, we bring them with us into new experiences, and when those new experiences remind us of the old ones, we react as if it is in fact the old experience. We hold the person and the experience in the present accountable for the events of the past. We react as if the person in the moment is the person from the past, and we often retaliate. None of this is done intentionally, though the damage done knows not the difference between intentional and unintentional, nor does the person we hurt in the moment. Few things hurt more than having to pay for the sins of another—whether it was a bad parent, a school bully, or an unfaithful lover. All too often, we are made to pay for the sins of another. But by equal measure, we have all done our fair share of damning someone for the sins that have been wrought upon us in the past.
More relationships are hurt and destroyed, when the sins of someone in your past are carried around like either a protective shield or a weapon, and used on a person in your present. I can say that this is what I did with Lady X. What she did—and what she explained to me—is her story to tell. Her Apology has been made and accepted. And I have offered her my Apology—with a capital A.
For those of you wondering what an Apology with a capital A is, it is more than just saying, “I’m sorry.” It is about admission and accountability as much as it is about saying you’re sorry. It is about owning the baggage you’re carrying around, and not using the sins of another against someone other than the original sinner. It means that sometimes you have to accept that you were the villain of the story—or perhaps more accurately, the villain of one side of the story. It means doing the most you can to own the damage you have done, and working toward not doing it again.