How many times must we say “I’m sorry”?

Saying you’re sorry can be downright scary. Particularly, if you’re not sure if the other party will accept your mea culpa even though it’s from the bottom of your heart.

That’s what I faced when I placed my tail between my legs and cautiously approached my gym. One of the managers had called the cops on me and another member the other day when we refused to leave a section of the pool that had not been open to the public. (See “In hot water at the gym”) We may have inadvertently trespassed when we remained in a hot tub which had yet to be readied with chlorine. Me and another guy didn’t care, and stubbornly sat in the water despite a threat of police intervention if we chose to continue to “occupy” the tub. One thing led to another and the other guy’s headphones got broke and police took statements from both sides as if they were separating a married couple who had nothing but bad things to say of what they saw in the heat of an argument.

I didn’t like what I saw in me when things cooled down from my PTSD (post traumatic stress) episode a day later. I followed the advice of old wise man and I stopped looking at the other person as an enemy, and more as a human being I should try to understand by putting myself in their place. It didn’t work at first. I kept focusing on the alleged wrong I believed had been done to me. But, little by little I came to understand the gym manager was actually looking out for my welfare – and the welfare of all the members who would use the facility – and that my ignorance prevented me from seeing this.

It wasn’t until speaking to a physical therapist and a registered nurse that I learned how much harm I could have been exposed to. I didn’t know that hot water was breeding grounds for germs and that an untreated spa or whirlpool has lead to so many infections and contagious ailments. I’m a city boy whose folks never had a swimming pool. I never worked in aquatics or investigated the use of chlorine.

But I have to admit that it was not just my ignorance that prevented me from seeing the manager was right. I got angry when told to leave. I got greedy – instead of being generous – I insisted on having my own way. The hot tub was one of the drawing points for my exercising. I got attached to soaking in it following cardio workouts and half-mile swims.

And who did this woman think she was trying to boss around two grown men, anyway? We knew what we were doing and my negative pride in my macho abilities prevented me from seeing the real reality. (I committed five out of the six imperfections I had been trying to overcome. See “Enlightening Meditation”)

Speaking of “real reality,” is there such a thing that exists beyond our regular senses? Can we experience it by trying to elevate ourselves, by elevating our consciousness in order to see things not just from a single point of view, but several viewpoints? Can we touch this reality by striving to be kinder, more compassionate?

All these thoughts went through my head as I walked up to the LA Fitness desk, passed my membership card to an employee and she checked me in. “My card hasn’t been revoked?” I asked. “No,” she said, and I eventually entered the main exercise area pushing my hood over my head, not ready yet to face the manager, but steadying my courage one step at a time.

We met and sat a nearby table with another manager.

 We both apologized almost at once.

 “You have nothing to apologize for” she told me. “But I hated myself for what I did,” I said with all sincerity I could muster. “I should have put out a sign,” she said of the open hot tub. “I should have gotten out when you told me to,” I countered. “I was too ignorant to realize you were only doing it for our own benefit.”

I then reached across the desk and took her folded hands into mine, thanking her for joining me in this mutual act of contrition. I felt the world and all the universes beyond us at that moment had shifted back to normal.

Forgiveness makes everything a whole lot better in life. I’m glad I got some today.

12 comments on “How many times must we say “I’m sorry”?

  1. souldipper says:

    Bravo to both the manager and you, Michael J.

    Thank you for putting compassion and kindness into the atmosphere. We all benefit. XO.

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  2. wolfshades says:

    Wow, Michael. I must admit: I’m still processing that last blog and this one, and find it difficult to put myself in your shoes at the end of this one. (Evidently I have anger issues – I’ll admit that here and now). Pulling someone’s headphones off is, I think, bordering on assault. Still makes me angry just thinking about it. I don’t know if I would have the grace to interpret her actions as attempts to keep patrons safe – so much as her need to exert herself, ending in frustration at “not being treated with respect”.

    Ah well. Maybe someday I’ll figure it out. I generally do give people the benefit of the doubt, and practically bend over backward sometimes to find a positive way to interpret stuff. But not when it comes to outright violence – verbal or physical. That stuff tends to poke and infuriate the reptile brain.

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    • contoveros says:

      It wasn’t easy putting myself into her place. You and I have what I would call “street smarts” and know how to get through a difficult situation. Making a joke and easing tensions is something we learned to do through trial and error.

      But what if you have never dealt with this before? What if you don’t know that grabbing headphones from a guy’s head could get you decked or into a fight neither one of you wanted to get into?

      LA Fitness agreed to make restitution and I am once again a happy hot tub camper. I made new friends with management and feel a whole lot better about myself.

      I had to admit that I was wrong in order to see difficulties this young woman faced. I’m sure you would have done the same once you realized how much a little understanding could make a bad situation better.

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  3. tana says:

    This post made me tear up. 🙂

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  4. baxwitz says:

    This is such a beautiful story about self-awareness and humility… and courage. How amazing to face your mistake, and then remedy it. You made amends and allowed her to do the same, what a gift you gave to two people, and I’m sure it was scary. (and you created so much merit!!)
    Thanks for sharing!! Love, Lisa

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