Several months ago, I wrote about the power of words and why phrases like, “That’s so retarded!” have always bothered me. I can’t recall any time in my life when I’ve used that phrase because I was taught early on that it was a derogatory use of the word. Most of my friends at school used the phrase though and I decided at some point that I needed an alternative.
“That’s so gay!” was the one I came up with. It never occurred to me that was just as derogatory a usage as “That’s so retarded!” I wasn’t aware of anyone I knew who was gay. And like most adolescents, I had very little concept of a world outside of myself.
I don’t recall having any grand revelation. I don’t remember when I stopped saying it, but I suspect it was around the same time I found out that some of my friends were gay.
Once in middle school, I picked on a boy in my class. One of the kids who usually picked on me told me to do it. And I did it. I was ashamed of myself afterwards, but I never apologized.
In 9th grade, I called my history teacher a fat cow – not because I had a problem with her being overweight but because she was a bitch who happened to be overweight. It never occurred to me that insulting her weight was an insult to anyone who was overweight. I just despised her and wanted to call her names so I could demonstrate to my friends how much I despised her.
I’m not proud of those moments (and many others like them), but I’m rather certain that we have all done things at one time or another that we’re not proud of. We learn and we grow and we change and we make amends (either by direct apology or by changing our current and future behaviors). That’s the way life goes.
Some of our mistakes in life are more egregious than others, but I don’t think anyone is beyond redemption. And that is why I was bothered by some of the comments on this picture posted by the Being Liberal Facebook page.
The picture is of Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, a psychiatrist who over 10 years ago claimed that his research showed that homosexuals could be cured. He has recently come out and said that he no longer believes his research supported those findings. He has also said that owes the gay community an apology. The picture asks, “Do you accept & forgive or is this too little, too late?”
The vast majority of the comments give Dr. Spitzer credit for making the public apology, and I agree with them. I think it takes a lot of courage to admit your mistakes. I think it must take an exorbitant amount of courage to admit to a mistake that large and to do so publicly. I think a large number of people would just try to slink into obscurity and avoid the issue all together.
So comments like these upset me:
“He’s done so much damage and people think being gay is a choice, and it was made even worse by him. Don’t forgive evil.”
“Um . . . go to hell, Robert Spitzer.”
“way too little way too late. Let the asshole blow his own head off, THAT would be a meaningful apology in this instance.”
I object to the notion that once a person does wrong, that person can never be forgiven. No one is perfect. We all have our skeletons, our dark spots and we all have room growth. I think the inability to forgive someone for something he sincerely apologizes for says a whole lot more about the person hanging on to the anger than the one asking for forgiveness.