Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Excuses, Excuses

I have a couple apologies that I would like to make this week and I've been thinking about what place "clarification of my intent" ought to play a role in the apology. In other words, what excuses are okay to provide and which will just drive a wedge deeper between us. From preschool we learn that we are not to make excuses for our actions. But every action that we take has a cause and that cause may actually help the other person understand and forgive us. But the flip side is that every excuse that we give can indicate an unwillingness to act differently in the future. If our actions made perfect sense, why would we need to apologize in the first place?

I think that one rule of thumb is that any excuse that we might give for our action ought to come from our vulnerability. Our excuses should not simply state that someone did something to us and therefore we did what we did. No, it should state how we were emotionally affected by another action. It is not simply stating that we felt angry that something happened so we responded in kind. A valid excuse focuses on what need we were hoping to have met that went unfulfilled.

The best emotion to get to the core of vulnerability is, of course, fear. That's because fear is in it's very nature an emotion of vulnerability. And unlike most other emotions, like anger, disappointment, and disgust, there is no condemnation of others in its tone. And people respond better when they are not being attacked. Fear conveys the message that the individual needs one type of response, rather than demands it.

Expressing your fear means that you do not simply state the antecedents of your actions. It means you explain the meaning you interpreted from being treated a certain way. Although this may feel awkward, it opens each person up to the other person, where there is possibility of reconciliation. Rather than "excusing" your behavior, sharing your fear conveys your essential humanity and need for love and acceptance. Finally, the apology can occur because whatever we were expecting from the other person, and fearing that they would not provide, was a need that could be provided by God. Without that connection, we could never really admit our wrongs because we would have responded the only way we could without God.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Personal Viewpoint on the Elections

I'm scared to tell you who I plan to vote for in the election. I'm afraid that some of you will think I have just jumped on a bandwagon that most young adult men have found themselves on, without really engaging the tough questions. But simply by stating that you can likely guess who I favor. I get excited about Obama because I sense in him a powerful charismatic spirit and a vision for the future that gets me excited about being an American.There is something inside me that longs to witness something historic. Perhaps that's why I was torn between rooting on the Patriots and the Giants. Regardless of what happened, whether an upset or perfect season, it would be a historic game. Yes, I'll admit it's not just about his political stances, I want America to be something different. And I want to be a part of it.

I grew up following in the political footsteps of my parents, who are Republican. They weren't dogmatic and they held pretty sophisticated political beliefs, which I certainly respect, but the upcoming election felt like a change of tide for me personally. I sensed that the Democrats values were closer to the vision of God's world that I've come to hold. Now I must admit, I got a thrill telling my parents I was likely going to vote for a Democrat, just to shake them up. But as the election has come closer, I catch myself feeling like I'm betraying someone or something that I have sworn loyalty to. I've realized that, for me, voting was about more than just deciding who would lead our country in the right direction; voting was about my identity.

I encourage you to take this election time as an opportunity to shake up your identity. Question your motives for why you want to vote for a particular candidate. Discover what draws you away from certain candidates. Of course, fear will creep up at the slightest hint that you would change your political stance. It would mean that part of your identity will be forced to change. It will mean admitting that you were wrong in the past. But exploring these fears and hopes will help you learn about yourself and help you make the best decision.