What, you may ask, am I apologizing for? Well, I'm not apologizing for anything right now, but I do want to have a discussion on apologies. Mainly because a lot of people I've met have the opinion that I apologize too much...and yet I keep getting the personal feeling that I apologize too little.
This was sparked by an article I recently read on the Huffington Post, of all places, about the dharma of apologies. (You can find the article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suhag-a-shukla-esq/the-dharma-of-an-apology_b_1110845.html) The article is about a sort of extreme case of someone not apologizing when they should have, in this case a politician not apologizing after making disparaging remarks about Hinduism and its practitioners. The author goes on to say that the politician "did not intend to offend," but still refused to apologize. I know in this case the need for an apology was clear cut. But in my everyday life, it's never that simple.
See, I say "sorry" or "I apologize" a lot in my everyday life not necessarily because I know I did something wrong, but because of the fear that I did something wrong. For me, that fear is ever present, even before I became interested in Hinduism. You could say for most of my life I was afraid of karmic backlash. However, if I'm interpreting the intent of the article correctly, it does say even in the case of accidental offense one should apologize. That leads to my next question, though: how do I know if I've offended someone?
Unfortunately, I tend to be a literal person, which is unfortunate in this case because I can only ever grasp if I've offended someone when they say so to my face. Body language and other indirect behavior is not something I can grasp easily. (As for why, that's another story.) I try to practice the principle of non-harm, but how can one adhere to it when almost nothing gives an obvious indicator to someone like me? To me, it's like trying not to make ripples on the water when the only part of the lake that's shown is that under the moonlight; too much is completely shrouded in darkness to see if I made any ripples in it at all.
Add to that the fact that so many actions in life - in Western society, anyway - are of the accidental harm variety, and yet are ones I have to do to survive from day to day...and I find it draining to even contemplate. For example, my eating habits...I know I should go vegetarian for the good of the planet, but modifying my behavior accordingly is way too daunting a task for me to start on. I'm so stressed out from everyday life that focusing on not doing the everyday things I do that are harmful to others is just too much.
Maybe that's the reason I feel the need to apologize all the time?
I know I can't save them all. But if the only way to be a good person is through non-harm, and the harm I potentially do to others is so shrouded...what's someone like me to do? Living in fear of having hurt someone without knowing it is something I do not want to experience any longer. Can I possibly live my life without this ever present fear?