The Power and Value of Remorse — Part 3 of 3
Remorse kicks Regret’s ass every time
Welcome to the third and last part of what remorse teaches us. A quick recap… Remorse taps you on the shoulder and asks you to be whole and undivided. It taps your other shoulder and invites you to a self-reflective inquiry into your way of being human.
“Do I have to fix anything?” No… no fixing. Suggestions?… Yes. Create a new conversation with someone (or a conversation with yourself) about your belief structure. Take a new action with someone (or shift your habits). End a relationship where you are out of integrity (including the current relationship you have with yourself). Or do nothing as you sense into if it would do more harm than good to apologize to someone. “Never let your manufactured morals impede doing the right thing”… that’s a paraphrase of a quote found in an Isaac Asimov book.
Remorse does not invite you to apologize. Remorse invites you into integrity. It invites you to be whole in self and in relationship with others and Life. Invite someone into a conversation to share that you see the impact of a past version of you. And then ask what that person needs to restore the integrity of the relationship. It does not mean you “hook back up” with people. What you do is make it clean with that person.
This is where compassion comes in. You didn’t know. I didn’t know. If we had known, of course, we would have made different choices which would have resulted in different impacts and outcomes. You do not know yourself until you look.
And this is what the sorrow of remorse is pointing to — your separation. The not knowing of self. Your separation from reality, from “Life”.
If you had not been separate (out of integrity), of course, you would have made a choice that would have served you and others for a mutual benefit. When we are separate and see ourselves as separate (special, better than, worse than, deserving…), we make choices from hidden goals. Goals that serve being right (righteous), being better than others, being afraid, being ashamed, being angry.
Remorse speaks to seeing one’s distance from the divine (god, Life, the Tao, Nature, the true self) and invites you back into integrity.
The Christian contemplative / mystic tradition speaks to remorse as a tool of the “inner life”. One that creates “tears” at the recognition of ones “distance” from the divine (your true self).
The Tao teaches us to examine the unnatural distance we create in our dualistic thinking (righteousness) against the natural world.
What both these teachings point to is you. The manufactured you that separates you from the divine you. Oneness is the term used in some wisdom traditions. Consider that what you are doing with remorsus conscientiæ is to return to center. Your center. The natural you that your young innocent self knew how to be.
So what does one do? Here are some steps that work for me to come clean:
- Contemplate: a relationship, event, circumstances, (person + circumstance) and notice your way of being a human.
- Feel into it fully (no avoiding, no judging).
- Examine your way of being: How did you make that person (or yourself) wrong? Did you try to force your will? Did you justify your righteousness? How did you try to win at all costs?
- Examine your emotional state: How did anger, shame, or fear (or all three) run you (control you)?
- Examine your belief structure: Why do you believe what you believe? Where did that come from? How is that current belief working for you and against you? How is it working against others?
- Share your impact with that person not to apologize, but to allow understanding, grace, compassion, and responsibility.
- Appreciate who you are being and who the other person is just as they are and just as you are… now.
- Ask what they need to be clean and grant what you will grant. Be clean with your “yes” and your “no”.
Here is an example of how I did the above a few years ago as the result of a remorsus conscientiæ from a past intimate relationship.
Someone with a shared past reached out to connect randomly, as these things happen. The book The Alchemist calls that an omen (characters admonish the main character in the book to mind the omens!). So, one afternoon while she was on a long drive home from a business trip and I was sitting in an airport lounge waiting for a connecting flight, we chatted.
After the usual niceties of connecting, I asked if I could share a realization. I shared with her my remorse at who I had been in our relationship. How fear and anxiety and my lack of trust (of self) cut off our relationship (trusting her). How my distrust and needing to control (to avoid my fear) created a divide in the relationship. I did not need to go into my past on how my belief structure got created. I did not apologize in the traditional way. But I used the word sorry in this way… “I was so insecure… I am so sorry for the impact of my insecure way of being and who I was being had on you and our relationship. I was so afraid, and I didn’t know how to operate in that fear. And so what I did instead was try to control my insecurity by putting unrealistic expectations on you. And I hated myself for it but did not know how to change it. What I did instead was to justify why I was right to anyone who would listen and how I blamed you for my being insecure.”
Instead of addressing my stuff, I would try to justify my fear by asking her to change so I would not feel so insecure. Yep, that’s “messed up”.
This is what I mean when I say “ya gotta have your personal WTF moments of recognition”. She was gracious, and we had a space of new appreciation. We got to see each other in a new light. At this moment of writing, I hold so much appreciation for her. Not a blindness or a covering over, but a new light on how that relationship was a gift of awakening. An appreciation and the gift she was (and is). Yes, it sucked to cause my own and her suffering that insecurity brings. And I notice compassion (with a chuckle and shake of my head) to see I did not know how to navigate that. And appreciation for “doing my work”.
This is the value of remorsus conscientiæ. It is a complete and personal WTF moment of “OMG, I can’t believe I’ve been operating this way”. It costs you nothing and gains you everything to self-reflect and own yourself.
A final note and nuance. Righteous people in your life will not understand this. People that follow dogma instead of heart. People that make statements like “I hope the holy spirit graces you with understanding”. What that statement really means is… “I hope you conform to my belief structure and until then you can go to hell”. We humans are already “in hell”… it’s the double whammy of the human mind and how it separates itself from the natural world… Life. One look at how the rest of nature works and you can see the divine. No drama in nature, just in the humans. You want to live in “heaven”?… examine how Life operates naturally and mirror it.
Phillip is someone who finds fascination in the animal that calls itself human. And so he leads a practice that he calls DearHuman.LIFE. Dear Human serves the purpose of writing, podcasting, teaching, coaching, and guiding humans on the nature of being human. So that all humans live in freedom from the constructs to which they enslave themselves and shift to their natural well-being and flourish.