A friend who has two young children asked me to write about some positive things my parents did when I was a child that have shaped who I am today. So many things contribute to why we are the way we are, from genetics to early friendships to traumatic experiences in our youth, but there’s no denying that our parents’ choices, behaviors, and attitudes have a significant impact on the people we become. Reflecting on our childhoods is valuable for all of us, and it holds particular value for me at this moment, as I prepare to become a parent. Read more
The Grammar Girl podcast did a great show this week on how to write an apology. For a while now, I’ve been meaning to write a post about making tough apologies, so I thought I’d piggyback on Grammar Girl’s discussion. The show advised listeners to avoid four kinds of non-apologies (the “if” apology, the passive voice apology, the reverse apology, and the florid fauxpology) and to follow a formula for apologizing effectively:
Acknowledge the offense clearly
Explain it effectively
Restore the offended parties’ dignity
Assure them they’re safe from a repeat offense
Express shame and humility
Make appropriate reparation
(Credit to Dr. Aaron Lazare and his book On Apology.)
This week, Hidden Brain, one of my favorite podcasts-slash-public-radio-programs, explored the topic of regret with a researcher and head of an academic “regret lab.” The program discussed the various positive and negative consequences of regret.
I think I’ve reached a point in my life when I’m able to put most of my regrets to rest. Yes, there are opportunities I missed, chances I wish I’d taken, different paths I could have chosen, and times I acted selfishly or treated others poorly. The last category is, of course, the hardest to get over, because it’s regret combined with guilt. But we can’t undo what we’ve done in the past, and at some point we have to forgive ourselves and commit to behaving better in the future, now that we know better.
The writing I do falls into three broad categories: (1) blog posts; (2) pieces that might someday be published (personal essays, poems, fiction); and (3) things I write only for myself (and I suppose the writing I do for work is a fourth category, but that’s a whole different animal). Today, I’d like to talk about the third category. What’s the point of writing things that no one else will ever read?
Maya Angelou gave a slightly different version of her famous quote in reference to her own past: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” This sentiment is key to forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. We are all works in progress.
I used to tell myself that I had no regrets in life because every experience was a lesson. While that’s a nice thought in the abstract, there are of course things I wish I had done differently, words I’d love to take back, and decisions I would revisit if I could. When I look at my life today, I see how my present circumstances are largely the consequence of past choices and unquestioned beliefs. I like my life, and I’m generally happy, but I’m also aware of missed opportunities. While I hope I still have a number of years left on this earth, the possibilities for my life don’t seem quite as endless as they once did. I sometimes wonder what my life would look like if I had studied a different major, lived abroad, moved to a big city after college, pursued a different career path, chosen a different law school, not gotten married right after college, or made better financial decisions.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. . . . There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”