When Ajahn David talked last night about bowing, and how beneficial it is to the bower and the bowee, I was reminded of a Candid Camera episode I saw as a child. In this segment, they followed someone around New York City, who would for no reason say to passing strangers – “Sorry”. At the end, the host (Allen Funt for you Candid Camera aficionados) reflected that it seems like most people seemed not surprised — in fact, to feel gratified to have someone say ‘Sorry’ to them.
I’ve since developed the habit of saying “Sorry” and/or “Thanks” at the slightest provocation. I told my office mates about it once, and for a while, everyone was signing their emails “Sorry, and Thanks!”. It was pretty funny.
It struck me last night that this seems to me like a form of bowing. The ‘Sorry’ has more of the flavor of “I’m sorry for your suffering”. Maybe this is dishonest? It doesn’t feel that way. Maybe the person hearing it sees me as accepting responsibility for something I don’t feel responsible for – but that’s ok with me – that’s not my problem.
There is a fine line here. I think it can be damaging to both parties if there is any submission to abuse. No ‘sorry’ in this case. This calls for the longer conversation of ‘this is unacceptable’. But for the everyday frictions and misunderstandings between people of good intention, I think ‘Sorry’ can calm the waters, and smooth the way. And the same for ‘Thanks’.
So to you all – Sorry — for your suffering, and any way I may have contributed to it – and Thanks! …for your presence in my life….;-}