I got a lovely email this morning from Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. It started with: "Dear Amichai, I messed up. I owe you an explanation."
I realize of course that millions of Netflix users got the same letter but I still took it personally, opened it, and read it. I think it had to do with his opening line – refreshingly honest. Or at least – compelling.
Saying sorry and taking responsibility for blame is not easy and is sometimes super hard. I'm learning how to do it better from observing the kids.
Day 18 of PREPENT wraps up a week of looking closely at the quality of relationships in my life: who is gone, and who is dear, how do i handle the social networks , whom to apologize to and where do I need to be kinder. To be on the safe side and err on the side of excess I recommend reaching out to all within the margin of doubt. If you THINK you need to have a check in with someone and apologize or request a conversation – assume you are not making it up. Just do it. (And unless you are a CEO and your screw up involves every one of your clients – I wouldn't go with the mass email approach, FYI..)
Saying sorry gets harder the longer one gets entrenched in one's position of right or wrong. Take Israel for example. Netanyahu's government continues, adamantly to refuse an apology to the Turkish government over the Flottila fiasco over a year ago. Diplomatic channels went public and sore over this issue in recent weeks. Turkish and Israeli politicians were quite clear over the issue: it's about honor and pride. Very Middle Eastern. Israel's refusal to admit that excess force was used and that other solutions could have saved lives is in line with the hard line that defines the Netanyahu/Lieberman regime. Politics aside – and I think it can sometimes be done – this is indicative of a deeply non Jewish and non humane way of dealing with one's past and one's errors. Sometimes, as a sign of strength – you gotta say 'sorry'. To refuse this is to refuse the ability to admit human nature, to block change, to dis-honor progress.
This is my personal bias of course, but as the world gets ready for whatever happens at the UN tomorrow, hopefully in the favor of more freedom and dignity to the Palestinian people – Israel's stance is on the line, including its official refusal to recognize its role in the escalating violence and terror.
The British have a soft way of asking 'sorry'? when they think they misunderstood you. I like the fact that saying 'sorry' can begin with asking 'sorry' – of one's self – where am I responsible for the difficulty? what can I do to help? and go from there. These days of Elul are all about 'slichot' – the art of saying 'sorry' – to yourself, loved ones, friends and foes alike.
Always be like a reed, and never like a cedar, wrote the sages in the Talmud. Reeds bend better with the changing winds. Thank you Reed Hastings for this reminder. (and thanks for Neflix!)