September 30th, 2002

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On bad behavior

This is the first in short series of entries that I am going to write on bad behavior and its consequences. The impetus behind these is a couple of incidents that happened starting Thursday, but I am going to write some about some past experiences as well. The point is to explore some of my general feelings about bad behavior, recognizing it, making apologies, making amends, forgiveness, and learning from our mistakes, specifically as it relates to other people.

Many of my feelings on these subjects come from my Catholic upbringing, but the major force behind them is the book Alcoholics Anonymous which I have read on more than one occasion.

On Thursday betanoir started a thread on the crack bored about posting information about people on the bored, including their names and addresses. I am in general agreement with this sentiment. Don't post anything personal about someone without knowing if they approve. However, in my stressed out state (mostly work related), I picked an argument with her. Mostly over the absolute nature of the way she put it and my general resentment of "official" pronouncements on the crack bored. In reality, it wasn't an "official" pronouncement, nor was she stating an absolute. But I was tired and cranky and underfed and an argument ensued. Although the little drama that ensued wasn't nasty or personal in nature at all.

That evening, I left to go to "Revenge of the Doorpeople" at the Merc and as I was leaving my parking garage, all of a sudden it struck me that I was being bitchy for no real reason. I simply was irritable and latched onto the first thing I saw that day that had a sliver of possibility in it. Prior to that point, I was self-righteous and felt perfectly justified in making this point. I thought about it while out that evening, and when I got home, I immediately posted an unreserved apology in the thread, and emailed her one as well.

I am gonna talk about apologies in another entry.

This incident got me thinking about how I recognize my bad behavior. In this case, as I drove off, I was disliking Beta and it occurred to me that this was resentment. I don't like being told what to do. Which is more or less what she was doing (although it wasn't directed at me personally). I am extremely anti-authority.

One of the practices that I learned in A.A. is that when I get a resentment, I need to look at who it's at, why I am resentful, and what my part in it is. I knew who I was resentful at, and why (combination of stress, food neglect, and being told what to do), but I hadn't looked at my part. My part was that I disagreed publicly with something I think is a good idea. Duh! What kind of dumb ass am I? (Maybe that should be one of these quizzes...) My part was that I irritated someone over nothing. My part was that I hadn't eaten. My part was that I tore someone down who didn't deserve it.

Most of the time, this is how I find bad behavior in myself. I am feeling irritable and resentful and all of a sudden, it dawns on me that I am resentful. Then I have to look back and see what my part is. Sometimes someone calls me on my B.S. and I get resentful at them doing that. Then I have to go through two layers of resentment to get at the root. On thursday, a little bit of that happened from a post by ilion which asked why I kept playing devil's advocate. The key is, I recognize I am resentful and that is what clues me in to examine my behavior.

More rarely, people call me on my BS and I am completely clueless about it. I am usually quick to recognize my behavior when this occurs. Unfortunately, I can't think of a situation in my own life to illustrate this at the moment.

Then there are times that I intentionally do bad things without emotion. The situation above was intentional (at the time). I am fully responsible for my behavior. I hate the cop-out of claiming less responsibility due to intentions. But I didn't recognize at the time that I was being an ass, nor that I was emotionally (resentment) involved in the behavior. Sometimes, I simply do things and I don't care if it hurts. I am not sure what to do about this.

At the moment, I can't recall other ways I recognize when I do something.

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On apologies

I used to be anti-apology. Mostly because I have been burned by people who apologized many times but never changed their behavior. It became hard to believe that their words meant anything. I have done the same myself. Apologized but then repeated the behavior for which I apologized. Many times I offended the same person. Intentions never counted for much in my book. In my previous entry, I talked about an apology I made to betanoir for being an ass (basically). If I were in her shoes, I certainly would wait a while until being sure I can restrain myself from being an ass, and to see if I might start revealing information she considers private. Cause my apology could be worth only the paper it was written on.

A friend of mine did something that hurt my feelings recently. But then before I had a chance to talk with her, she apologized. I was flabbergasted for a couple of reasons. First, she figured out that I was upset and talked to me without me having to talk to her first. She could tell I was upset without me doing anything. A lot of people haven't been able to understand I'm upset when I told them. Second, she cared enough about my feelings to apologize for something that bothered me, but for which she didn't owe me any consideration. Without an apology, I wouldn't have known either of these two things about her. I think it speaks very well of her.

So maybe I was somewhat wrong about apologies. They could be worth something sometimes.