The Most Savage Sentence
The title of this post comes from a sentence in one of my favourite Monty Python sketches – Court Scene [Multiple Murder].
excerpt via Monty Python scripts (click on the link for the whole scene) or watch the video at the bottom of this post
I saw this sketch when I was in my early teens, going through the agony of growing pains – and one of those pains was constantly feeling guilty for existing.
Somehow my existence was a crime for which I had to keep apologising.
The burden of this was crushing me, I was cornered, stuck in what appeared to be an impossible position, and I often contemplated a drastic solution to the problem.
I knew that this was the kind of solution to a problem which society frowned upon, but since I believed that society frowned upon me already and I couldn’t think of any way to make it smile at me, approve of my presence as my presence seemed to be the source of its disapproval, and since I already had to apologise for being here, if I wasn’t here then… at least I would not have to apologise anymore.
“It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”
― P.G. Wodehouse
The issue I had with apologising wasn’t with the act itself.
If you make a mistake, do something wrong, it makes sense to admit to it, own it, correct the mistake, do something right.
However everything I did seemed to be a mistake and nothing I did was ever right… even when I followed the instructions carefully.
Even my apologies were wrong, another mistake to regret, another reason to feel ashamed, guilty – I had failed yet again, let someone down, and an apology would need to be given for the apology already given.
I’m sorry that my sorry was not the sorry you wanted and that once again I have disappointed you. I’m sorry that my repetition of saying sorry is annoying you. I promise to never apologise again… but that is wrong too. I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry that I will never be able to figure out this conundrum in a way which is satisfactory. I’m sorry that everything about me offends you… and that you need for me to keep apologising but it will never make any difference…
As I am the source of all pain, perhaps the only way to stop the pain I am causing is by removing this weed at the root.
the easy way out?
It was in this atmosphere of gloom, doom, and sad faced emoji’s that laughter paid a visit and managed to coax a smile (which I kept to myself in case it offended and I had to apologise for it… but then I’d probably have to apologise for not sharing and showing it).
That Monty Python sketch hit a spot which I could never hit – In it a man managed to get away with multiple murder because of an apology.
The absurdity of it lightened the dark.
My apologies never yielded such a reward.
My apologies usually only brought more punishment upon me.
I was guilty for being innocent, for not being innocent enough, for being innocent when I should have been guilty and for being guilty when I should have been innocent, for being guilty of whatever I was being accused, not meeting expectations, meeting expectations.
Other people seemed to get away with murder (usually figuratively speaking)… but I couldn’t get away with anything. Other people could apologise and you had to accept it, but my apologies were never accepted.
These people who got away with murder were often the ones demanding apologies from me… if I ever asked for one from them, that was yet another crime for which I had to feel guilty and for which I could never stop apologising.
I did occasionally go to that place… if I’m going to get accused of a crime, might as well commit it…
“What about a compromise? I’ll kill them first, and if it turns out they were friendly, I’ll apologize.”
― Rick Riordan
Why on earth was I trying to be a good person if I was always going to be seen as being bad, why follow the rules if others didn’t follow them but expected you to do so, and when you did they’d change them without giving notice beforehand.
Why apologise if others make your apologies worthless.
We often talk about empty apologies from the standpoint of the receiver, the one who wants and thinks they deserve an apology because they are offended, have experienced a wrong, have identified the culprit and demand that the culprit make amends to them.
This is a fair viewpoint to consider as usually apologies are only given when someone asks for one.
Sometimes they are given before they are asked for as someone realises that they made a mistake, acted wrongly, hurt another person and they want to make amends.
We talk less about the apology from the standpoint of the apologiser, and only tend to consider that side of the equation if we have to inhabit the role.
But we tend to forget about how that side feels when we’re on the other side. Our perspective tends to see things from the position we’re in and only moves when we do.
We get angry when someone whom we want to apologise to us makes of their apology an excuse…
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
― Benjamin Franklin
when they say – I am sorry, but…
But when we’re the ones required to make the apology we may forget what it is like to be the one who wants one.And we may get angry when someone won’t let us make of our apology an excuse.
We want to explain ourselves and get upset when people don’t allow us to do so, don’t listen, don’t understand, don’t empathise, sympathise with the special circumstances which caused us to do what we did and say what we said.
We didn’t mean to do, say, what we did, said…
The mistake wasn’t supposed to be a mistake, the wrong was supposed to be a right…
We are sorry, but…
We may end up doing to someone else all those things that others do to us where apologies are concerned, but when we do it’s justified. Even when we’re in the wrong we find a way to be in the right.
Whichever side we’re on, we defend it.
It’s interesting to note that the word ‘apology’ originally meant…
that we speak in our defense. That we tell our side of the story…
These days we tend to think it means that we should prostrate ourselves at someone’s feet and beg for forgiveness.
It’s an intriguing shift of meaning and of power.
Monty Python was always brilliant at showing the shifts in meaning and power, and in pointing out the absurdities of life.
Watching their sketches taught me a lot, gave me crazy wisdom to consider, advised me to apply laughter to pain as it has a way of loosening the knots and ties which bind us to impossible situations.
Sometimes it can solve a conundrum by not solving it at all.