Saturday, March 21, 2020


I used to think this word simply meant being sorry for something you did. That's not what it means.
As is often the case, etymology provides a clue. The word ultimately derives from Latin remordere, where mordere means "to bite" (compare "mordant") and the re- is an intensifier. Remorse, then, is that strong bite of guilt that prompts genuine, heartfelt apologies (which include changed behaviour).

"Apology" is another contronym like "dust", a word that can have two meanings that are opposites of each other. An apology is either a regretful acknowledgement of offence, failure or wrongdoing...or a reasoned and justified defence of something. (If you're apologizing for something, life pro tip: do NOT include a defence.)

According to people from elsewhere, Canadians are known for their politeness and their use of the word "eh". I don't say "eh" very often as an adult, not after having had my attention drawn to just how often I said it (and "um", "uh", and "er") as a child. And the politeness? It really depends on what part of the country you're talking about. Some places are downright friendly, and others (Toronto) are colder than ice. We're perceived as polite because we say "sorry". All the time. To everyone and everything.  I have apologized to countless inanimate objects. I also apologize all the time to people whom I really don't want to apologize to. We all do it. Two Canadians will bump shopping carts in the grocery store (back when two Canadians in the same aisle wasn't a class-five biohazard) and both will say sorry, often twice. Meanwhile, one of them is thinking you twatsicle, get the hell out of my way and the other is thinking Lord Fucknuts here thinks he's entitled to the whole aisle. I could murder this asshole. "Sorry!" "Sorry!"

That's not remorse. Remorse is that stinging, yes,  biting voice of your conscious saying you done fucked up, boy, and it's on you to own it and fix it to whatever degree might be possible. And then never do it again. 

I get that feeling often, too, because I hurt people. Almost always unintentionally, which is no excuse. When your kid says I didn't mean to! the response, to me, ought to be: maybe not, but you still did it.  Or perhaps all right, you're not in trouble for doing what you did, you're in trouble for not thinking first if the thing could reasonably have been foreseen to cause hurt.
As an adult, I still find myself saying (to myself) but I didn't meeeeeean to! whenever my idealistic, naive plans blow up and spray shrapnel everywhere.

I'm not going to detail all the people whom I have hurt, and what I did to hurt them. That feels too much to me like a weird species of bragging, and it's probably triggering to some. Suffice it to say I am the villain in some stories, and I earned that designation.

I have been accused of self-flagellation. Guilty as charged, on occasion. I feel things deeply, including regret and remorse, and such feelings ought to be expressed lest they fester and corrode.  I am a better person having learned from my mistakes (and yes, I know I keep making them, but I do try hard not to make the same mistake twice). I am growing. To those whom I have hurt, I hope you have healed from that hurt. In some cases,  we have removed any possibility of my hurting you again, and I fully understand and accept the need for this.

I don't think I am a bad person, but I don't always act as my highest self. Again, I am improving. But this kind of improvement takes a lifetime.

Thank you for reading. 

1 comment:

pamala palz said...
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