Thursday, January 17, 2008
John has a habit of apologizing for things that are not his fault. Like the fact that the US Postal Service is holding three fifths of all my worldly possessions hostage. Or that I ordered something to eat that turned out to be less than delicious. He is very sincere about it, and truly concerned. Like if he'd only had the foresight to guide me away from that ordering that dish, I would have had a more enjoyable dining experience. Then he offers me his dish to make up for his blunder. The idea that he takes my happiness to heart even in the smallest details makes me happy.
The Japanese are similar in a way. Apologies run amok in dialog with the locals. "Please forgive us, so sorry, so ashamed, full of disgrace, that we ran out of rice for your sushi order....please accept our sincerest apologies and our first born." Something similar happened to me the other night at Zen Sushi, and while consoling this poor waitress, I assured her that it was no disgrace, and I would happily have the sushi, sans rice, sans child.
Verbal apologies were never much a part of our household growing up. We just sulked until the other party forgot, and then the egregious behavior dissipated over a good family meal. It's good to not hold grudges, but sometimes words can be necessary, admitting you've done something wrong can often completely cure the harm you've done.
The Japanese use the term "gomen nasai" to apologize, which actually means more along the lines of "I'm so, so sorry - but it ain't my fault." Well it's probably not quite like that, but it is an apology without claiming to be the cause of the injury. It seems excessive, but now makes me wonder if I'm being rude by NOT offering such condolences. There was a German girl I knew as an acquaintance who seemed so cold and unfeeling because she never offered any sympathetic words, and it made me feel that she couldn't care less how my life was going. But now I think it may have just been cultural. Cultural relativity if you will. I think sympathy in any degree is welcomed, as long as it's genuine.