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Wrongdoing and Apologies

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Wrongdoing and Apologies
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3/16/18 1:24 PM
As I proceed with my practice, I am again and again uncovering and revisiting wrongdoings I've committed against others in the past.

My main impulse when this happens has been to try and rectify the wrongdoing. For example, I've begun writing letters of apology to friends and former lovers (I haven't sent any of these yet), and have even ordered a book (a rare, expensive one) that I had borrowed and lost from a local library a decade ago, so that I may return it back into the library's collection.

I'm curious to hear how others have delt with this and whether it may be unwise to proceed this way due to unforseen consequences. 

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/16/18 3:42 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Rather than ruminating about the past and trying to right former wrongs, you'd probably be better off letting all of it go and focusing on how you behave right now. The past is generally best left in the past, and if your friends see you consistently acting kindly now i'm sure they'll forgive you for whatever you did.

The library idea isn't bad though. Just my 2 cents, i'm no guru.   emoticon

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/17/18 5:31 AM as a reply to Lars.
Recently listened to Dharma Punx and very much appreciated it. One of the practices Noah went through that he seemed to get a lot out of was righting old wrongs to everyone he had hurt over the years that he could find. It is an inspiring story. 

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/17/18 6:36 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Recently listened to Dharma Punx and very much appreciated it. One of the practices Noah went through that he seemed to get a lot out of was righting old wrongs to everyone he had hurt over the years that he could find. It is an inspiring story. 


In my practise the last year or so, lots of things have come up where I realized i'd acted improperly in the past and caused hurt or conflict. There have been some apologies and "making right", but for the most part it seems better to just focus on how I behave from moment to moment. My main concerns with this are:

1) Apologies etc don't mean much if you continue to act improperly, so focusing on proper behaviour right now seems more useful (i'm reminded of Saints and Psychopaths, where some people apologize and ask for a "reset" every few months, but continue to act badly)
2) Dredging up past hurts/wrongs can often just reignite those tensions
3) If you honestly have changed your views and behaviour, people will see the "new you" and will likely forgive your past actions as best they can

As an example, i'm currently communicating with a family member I previously had major conflict with. There were some apologies earlier for specific things, but my focus is just being as open and kind with them as possible NOW, and it seems to be working really well. We haven't gotten along like we do now since I was a little kid, and I can't complain (and she's made similar statements).

Still, your comments gave me something to consider. I know 12 step programs use this method, but i've always been somewhat wary of that for the reasons stated above.

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/17/18 7:04 AM as a reply to Zachary.
I've been through that too and made apologies too. I think whether to do this or not, context is very important: exploring our underlying motivation for doing it (relieve guilt? diminish the suffering of those we have wronged? Nourish an image of moral perfection in ourselves?), considering the impact it will have, etc. 

Sometimes I have a fantasy that after stream-entry we may not feel plagued by moral dilemas anymore; not that they stop existing, but that they stop creating anguish in the mind.This may be related to the fetter of silabhataparamassa, often translated as "clinging to rites and rituals" but perhaps more literally translated as "clinging to conduct (sila) and practices." This fetter seems to be related to a deep-seated belief that by doing certain external things (as opposed inner work) we will be free. I may be wrong here. Just a thought.

Benoit

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/18/18 4:32 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Examining my motivations and intentions in wanting to make amends for wrongdoing, I've landed on a few points. 

1) A significant, though subtle motivation is an anxiety about loss of control. It's a deep fear of wanting to police how I am perceived by others, of desperately wanting to steer them towards a positive image of my reputation, a fear of what could happen or what I might miss out on if I am disliked. It's a kind of neurotic affiliation with managing a stable, unchanging self. 

2) For the people still in my life who I have commited some wrongdoing against, the best approach is steady, continued moral growth and compassion. Some friends and family have already remarked that they sense a change in me. 

3) For those who aren't in my life anymore, who aren't around to witness any personal change in my behavior, a metta practice towards them and myself is appropriate. I also decided to write letters, but not to send them, as a sort of inner practice. I think there are some who would benefit from a letter and others for whom it would only aggravate old wounds. I will keep the letters around if I ever sense an appropriate time for them to be sent. 

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/19/18 11:30 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Zach, what i tend to do is to dissolve any feelings of guilt and shame etc in myself, what the other feels is none of my concern.
 

Since i engaged in spiritual practice, it is my aim to feel only love and kindness for everyone (including myself) in every situation, without exception.

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/19/18 12:18 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
Sometimes I have a fantasy that after stream-entry we may not feel plagued by moral dilemas anymore; not that they stop existing, but that they stop creating anguish in the mind.
Seems like a reasonable expectation to me.

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/20/18 9:36 AM as a reply to curious.
That doesn't even happen at arahantship, actually, as the story of the Buddha shows us and as demonstrated in numerous stories about his life and the lives of his followers in the early Sangha.

RE: Wrongdoing and Apologies
Answer
3/21/18 11:03 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
That doesn't even happen at arahantship, actually, as the story of the Buddha shows us and as demonstrated in numerous stories about his life and the lives of his followers in the early Sangha.
Daniel,

Would you mind sharing an anecdote, real or imaginary, of what sorts of moral dilemmas might still snag you, how that presents, and how you handle that sort of situation?