A Mile In Your Shoes...
“Sorry is the hardest thing to say.” How many times have you heard this statement? In fact it's not hard; not by a long shot. People say it every day with little or no meaning at all. The actual saying should be: “Sorry, without a 'but', is the hardest thing to say.” Try it on for size; When last can you remember saying sorry about something without adding that pesky 'but' at the end? 'But' seems to go with 'sorry' like 'or' with 'either' and 'nor' with 'neither'. However, as soon as you add the 'but' at the end, it immediately invalidates any weight the preceding 'sorry' could've ever carried.
Whether or not you're a Christian, there's a commandment from the Bible that, I think we would all agree, is an ideal we'd like to live up to and that is: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” But, have you ever contemplated the full implications of this? Or does fairness stop in your mind when you have nothing to gain or when it becomes an inconvenience for you? Even thieves, rapists and murderers insist on being afforded their “human rights” and yet, when it comes to their actions, fairness slides right down to the bottom of their priority list in illegibly fine print.
So let's examine this a little further. Before I get branded a heretic though, let me rephrase to a saying that bears the same gravity as the afore mentioned commandment: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Taken word for word, this saying is suited only to the annals of a Utopian society within which there is zero pursuit of self interest. In other words, the mere reality of our existence renders the literal execution of this saying an impossibility. You cannot make everybody happy all of the time while remaining happy yourself. It is inevitable that you will disappoint someone at some stage of your life. However, when you ask yourself whether or not the manner in which you had conducted yourself, kept the other person's dignity in tact, the answer should always be “yes, yes” and “yes.”
Allow me to illustrate with an extremely common example: If you've ever fallen in love with someone, you will know that by the time you reveal your intentions to the other person, you've already passed the point of being able to see that person as a platonic friend. With this knowledge in hand, how could you then ever let someone down 'easy' with the phrase, “let's just be friends,” if they reveal themselves to you and you don't feel quite the same about them? Think about it; by saying this, you're not really considering the other person's feelings. No, the real motive for saying this, is for you to retain your sainthood badge and not to look like the jerk who breaks someone's heart. In the process, you're not only doing just that, but you're also undermining their dignity by insulting their intelligence and even worse, you're leaving them with a faint glimmer of hope where there is none. Wouldn't it be kinder to allow that person to move on to find happiness elsewhere?
“But friendship,” I hear you say defensively, “is more important than a relationship.” Oh, really? Have you ever pondered on yourself lying old and gray on your deathbed someday and, if you have, did you imagine, in that grim moment of your life, you would prefer a good friend above someone you love romantically? When you realize the ultimate answer to this question, is a resounding “no”, don't you think it's only fair to allow another person the liberty to also want someone special with whom to share their lives? Don't get me wrong, friends are of extreme importance and I treasure my friendships jealously but love remains the number one human pursuit and will continue to do so, long after this generation has passed. The species need to perpetuate and friendship isn't part of that equation, no matter how deeply you've diluted yourself into thinking it is. Whether you agree with me on this or not, there's a fact you can't dispute: A real friend does not lure a friend into a situation where their downfall is an inevitability.
If treating others as you would want to be treated, is so close to being impossible, how do we then exercise this virtue in our daily lives? Well, it's really quite simple when you come to think of it. It's merely a matter of putting yourself in someone else's shoes and forcing yourself to drive your tongue manually instead of having it in cruise control. Realize that what you're about to say or do, may have a long term impact on the other person's life, even if it seems trivial or inconsequential to you. If an excuse springs to mind as if it's been sent from some higher knowledge base, be conscious that it's probably such a common excuse that the other person surely has heard it before. Even if you risk losing popularity, be deserving of their respect; don't lie. Be honest and direct but be tactful. As a rule of thumb, when you're faced with an uncomfortable or difficult situation, the right thing to do is usually the least pleasant one. Grow a pair. Do the right thing even if you know it will be met with resistance and stick to your convictions. Don't lead people down the primrose path. When asking for forgiveness, never try to justify your actions. Don't explain unless you're asked to do so. If asked for an explanation, explain; don't justify. Be expensive with both your compliments and critique; sincerity is born from this. Let the favor you do for either friend or stranger, be a reward in itself without expecting something in return.
In your interactions with other people, once you decide to walk a mile in their shoes, it is unfortunate that the greater number of them will confuse your kindness with weakness. As a result, they will assume you're their doormat and, make no mistake, it won't be pleasant. However, when you can go to bed at night and have sympathy for someone because you caused them sorrow by doing the right thing, rather than console yourself in the knowledge that you didn't look like the bad guy, you will have saved yourself from the tangled and thorny vines of regret. And for goodness sake, rather sit on your butt than omitting a letter and adding it to the end of 'sorry'.