When my students say sorry, I respond: Don’t be sorry, be learning.
As a phrase, “sorry” is thrown around a lot, but doesn’t seem to do very much to prevent that same behavior from happening in the future. It’s my intention to show my students that it’s okay to make mistakes — it is okay to “be sorry” — but if that’s where you stop, then that’s not far enough.
We’re heading into the season of the Jewish calendar that emphasizes a return to self, to “goodness” perhaps, and to the start of a new year. A fresh slate, a new page, a beginning. Who do we want to be as we head into that year? Are we being the person we want to be?
As I asked them recently, where have I allowed fear of not being “good enough” prevent me from accomplishing something I wanted to do? Where have I not been as courageous, kind, or thoughtful as I wanted to be? Where I have stood aside because it was the “easier” thing? … Where have I thrown something in the black garbage bin because a compost wasn’t easily accessible?;)
I don’t only want to be sorry. I do need to apologize where it is warranted — and I have this year! (See recent rant.) But I also need to be learning. What is there for me to learn from this? Am I growing from this mistake / misstep?
If all experiences and people in our lives — from the schmo who cuts me off on the highway without looking to the coworker whose shoulder I sobbed on yesterday when I found out my best friend is cancer-free (thank you, god, universe, everything!) — are here to teach us something, can we pause long enough to discover what it is? Can I allow it to change me? To inform my actions, to tell me something about my knee-jerk reactions or long-time habits?
Don’t be sorry; be learning. (Though I suppose the more clunky, “Don’t just be sorry, be learning” is most accurate!)
Shanah tovah, all.