The first time I questioned whether an apology was ever necessary happened when I experienced a different culture’s practice of shunning.
One of my girlfriends, a Native American artist, had asked me to help her make a drive to another state on a business trip. She said she had artwork to deliver and a commissioned project to do there. Because I was into “service” as part of my personal spiritual journey at the time, I drove my van the eight hours to her home the day before we were to leave, assuming that she’d fill me in when I arrived. Didn’t happen.
Instead, she announced that we were flying, that she’d already bought our tickets. When I protested that I had signed up to share the driving, she insisted that she still needed me to help her and that flying would let us get more from the trip because we wouldn’t be spending so much time on the road.
When we arrived, she rented a convertible and we delivered her artwork to the gallery. I amused myself looking at the current showing until she finished her business. Next stop was to her client’s home where she would complete a project–painting her signature creatures in fairytale fashion on the headboard of a granddaughter’s bed, from scratch. I asked how long she expected it to take, thinking I might go for a walk in that time, and was scolded for “ acting like a child.” (Blunder #1)
Many hours later, we arrived at her friend’s home where I was once again left to my own devices: left out. Finally, we arrived at her family’s home and her father extended a warm welcome to me, perhaps because I had sent him the ceremonially processed wings and tail feathers of a golden eagle for use in his costume at an upcoming celebration. No, I did not kill the bird.
It had been hit, probably by a truck, on a desolate highway between Nevada and Colorado. I had stumbled upon it when I got a speeding ticket just before dawn and was forced to slow down the rest of the way into the next jerkwater town. I stuffed it into a plastic bag, put it in trunk of my car, and phoned her for instructions the instant I got home the next day. It’s illegal for anyone but a Native American to possess such a bird no matter how it died; I had taken a huge risk on her behalf.
Her father offered me the guest bedroom. Because she had talked about it non-stop on the drive to his house–how she’d never been allowed to stay in it–I demurred and asked if I might sleep on the couch, suggesting that she might have it instead. (Blunder #2).
Next day we went to town with one of her sisters. I was not included in the conversation and they walked several feet in front of me most of the time. But when we were exploring a gift shop a little later, I saw a Dream Catcher and asked them about it, hoping to inspire some shared conversation.
My friend reacted quite unexpectedly. She said I was rude, asking about another person’s religion, and was incensed that I assumed all Indians were alike. Actually, I did neither. I had asked only whether her tribe included Dream Catchers in their art. (Blunder #3)
The day continued and we watched a parade before going to the large gathering of different tribes that included an outdoor fair of offerings that would thrill any shopper, something like a rodeo, and dog races. My friend and her sister sat maybe ten feet from me.
That evening after dinner, she called me outside. She accused me of being an “ignorant traveler” and said I had been nothing but an embarrassment to her since we arrived. She listed my many sins. I asked her why she had asked me to come in the first place since she had not once asked for my help since we arrived. She said she thought I needed a vacation. (This is a vacation?) I offered my sincerest apology, and she explained to me that in her culture, no one ever apologized for anything–that others simply shunned the one who made the error and sooner or later they would figure it out. (Blunder #4)
Moments later, when she told me to get dressed for whatever huge event was happening that night, I feigned a headache from “too much sun” and asked if I might stay home and read. Pleased with that decision, she left me. I cried for about an hour, until her father showed up, insisting I tell him why I did not go.
He listened patiently as I explained how I had embarrassed her. Finally, he suggested that the embarrassment was no doubt hers, in light of her jealous history with her more traditional sisters, for bringing a blonde-haired white girl to this particular event. In short: she was the one who had made the blunder (with her sisters), and he apologized for her rude behavior. When I called him on it, making an apology, he laughed out loud.
You can see why I’m confused about apologies.
What I know about the WASP culture is that many of its members don’t have a clue how to make an apology. Instead, we like to sweep IT under the rug, act like IT didn’t happen, hope that if we pretend IT isn’t there, IT will go away. The fact that it never does is evidenced by the abundance of psychotherapists of all kinds in this country. Apology and forgiveness simply are not commonly practiced.
Fortunately, the Huna healing practice of Ho’oponopono of Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len has made it easy to heal ourselves and everything and everyone in our world. If we experience it, it’s in our world. When there’s a ripple in the water–no matter where it came from–we have choices. We can choose to offer Ho’oponopono:
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.”
You can visualize someone’s face and repeat it, or write it in an email, or simply say it over and over again like a mantra to yourself. When we invoke healing for ourselves, we are healing the planet.
What do you think? Is there ever a time when an apology or forgiveness isn’t necessary–no matter who did what or how long ago? Remember: If we experience it, it’s in our world. When we notice a ripple in the water–no matter who caused it, we’re responsible for healing it.
Till next time, I’ll be skating thru my days, practicing Ho’oponopono for . . . the world. How about you?