The Analogy of Accepting Apologies

Spelman shows that there are many different types of reparations but while describing these different reparations she also uncovers all of the ugly pieces and flaws of trying to fix certain situations. As many problems as are seen in the book the one that stands out to me is the issue of the broken person having such a large part in fixing a relationship. The reason that this stood out to me so much was because it was the only problem that I had never considered in the whole book. It made me think about the validity of an apology because if a person hurts someone’s feelings badly all they need to do is say sorry and they’ve done what they can do. It then becomes the other person’s responsibility to fix the relationship, the fate of your future lies in the quick decision of accepting an apology. How does one person decide in such a quick moment whether or not they are okay with what someone else did? I was able to understand people being able to accept apologies for small things like maybe breaking something or saying something mean. The rest took me some time to think about.
I had to think of a personal moment when I really felt like I needed to apologize and a moment when I really needed to accept an apology. Once I began to think about these things I almost immediately had an idea for each scenario. Except for this time when I thought about them, I thought about them in a whole new light. When I thought about my apology I never spent any time thinking about how much pressure I was putting on the other person, or how my apologizing would make them feel. Was I person worth saving a relationship for? How badly had I harmed this person’s feeling? I had spent hours trying to make up the words to say in order to plead my case for forgiveness but was that even helping the situation? All of these questions immediately rushed to my head once I began to think about how the apology affected the person who I had hurt. Spelman describes it as “Human relations are such that they can be broken by one party but can be repaired without both parties” (Spelman 98). That shows how unfair the system of apologizing is. If I’m feeling awful because someone did something to me, the last thing that I want to have to think about is my role in making things better. It would usually be thought that the person receiving the apology should not have to do any work at all.
Before I could consider how the other person felt I had to dig back to how I felt in the same situation, which was really difficult because I remembered what Spelman had mentioned earlier that no two situations are alike. So how could I ever know what feelings I had stirred up, but I still wanted to consider my experience in order to compare. What I learned was that the responsibility to decide the fate of the relationship is actually an important part the process. How much do I care about losing the person who has hurt me? Is this going to happen again? All of these questions in such a short time cause a jumble in the head but that’s the beauty of it. The decision that is made is a gut reaction and everyone should trust their gut. A person should come out of accepting an apology proud with what they decided to do. Life is full of tough decisions but that’s the only way to move forward and it makes everyone better than they were before they made the choice. So after all the consideration, maybe the ugliest and hardest parts of repair are what leads to the beauty in life.

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Who Needs to be Repaired

Spelman takes reparations to a different level when she starts to indulge in the idea of human reparations. Through much of the early chapters, the main focus is directly on how people have been able to restore tangible items, how different items require different types of repair and how different people master different aspects of repairing. These ideas are more concrete but once the tide shifts to people there is a totally different idea on how to repair. In chapter four there is a large emphasis on criminals fixing their wrongdoings through payments or through incarceration, but none of these truly are able to repair what is said to be broken.
To start, how can a person who has had the tragic experience of being robbed feel better about what happened because they got paid back the money that was taken. There is such a high standard of the value of money that people believe that a simple payment can be of use. Fine, a payment has been made and everything is “fixed”, but then what happens when the victim of a robbery has to walk home again alone late at night? Will there ever be the confidence that nothing bad will happen again? Or will there always be the lingering thought that there is someone who wants to cause harm? Either way, it shows the values of the judicial system oppose to trying to make a difference in a person’s life there is an easier way to handle it. If all debts are paid and those who have broken a law are incarcerated then the problem is done. Almost as if the problem is just being swept under the rug in hopes that with all criminals in jail there will be no one left to cause harm.
Then what happens to the people who get caught and sentenced to jail time? The likelihood of a convict going to prison and coming out mended of their problems is very slim. There is no real attempt to try and fix the piece of society which is the most broken, there is always a reason for a person to have done a crime. A jail cell, with only a couple hours a day to go outside is no way for a person to rebuild their social skills or to help them be set to return to normal society. This is the reason why there are so any repeat offenders in the world. A problem that is overlooked because this person harmed someone else, but who or what harmed them? Unlike a car a person can’t just be sent to a shop, in this case, jail, to be fixed up and sent back out to work as new. People can’t just toss on random parts to a person and hope these lessons will teach them not to commit crimes and to just fit into normal society. As Spelman puts it, “That’s one of the differences between fixing inanimate objects and mending human relationships: The car you wrecked doesn’t need your forgiveness in order to be fixed” (Spelman 85). This a point that is repeated several times throughout the book because of the relativity of the issue. It is what make the entire book come together. Spelman needed to explain in detail the importance of fixing man-made objects in order to further show the importance of maintaining these positive human relations. This is used to highlight the incredible difficulty of repairing a broken relationship or a broken person. Criminals are the perfect example of a broken person, because what makes them different from anyone else? Yet they are treated just like the outside, with no sense of any attempt to rehabilitate them.

Who Repairs What?

Throughout the first three chapters of Repair by Elizabeth Spelman, there has been a major focus on the different types of ways that people can repair things, whether it be; a car, a bike, a painting or a person. That being said Spelman lightly indulges in the interesting topic of gender roles within reparation or restoration; the differences in how they repair, what they repair and why they repair. Early examples in the text show Willie a car repairman who spends all day working to fix cars with his hands. Spelman talks about the way the Willie is able to use his learned abilities to fix any car. Another example is Fred, who is working on restoring a motorcycle through the physical labor of mending pieces back together. Both of these two examples are guys who are hands on working in order to repair. Spelman discusses how in these man dominated workshops there are no signs of women except for the occasional swimsuit model calendar seen hanging on the wall. So then how does a woman repair if there is no workshop for repairs to be done? Historically men have always been seen as the gender who repair objects, women are the ones behind the scenes who repair the most important thing in life… a person’s spirit. The house is the repair shop for daily life and the head mechanic, the woman of the house. When a day goes wrong and all spirits are lost or there is a sense of uncertainty the mother figure is there to listen and help rebuild to wear and tear of daily human life. Spelman believes that a man sees everything too black and white, that men will not be able to help with certain situations because there is too much direct thinking. The example of a teen pregnancy is used to show the way a woman would comprehend and help the situation. The father is only thinking about what is morally correct if an abortion would be viewed as acceptable. While the mother is able to think beyond that and consider what is best for her daughter.
Also in Chapter three there is also the idea that men have the choice to do repair work and that they are able to build their skills to repair but for women, it’s all in a day’s work. For a woman the skills to help a person are natural, Spelman explains, “But though not all men have been welcomed into or expected to aspire to join the brotherhood of tool users, women of all classes and complexities need not even apply.” (Spelman 49). The passage shows that for men there are hundreds of different types of repairs and most of which are learned throughout life, but for women their repair skills are inherited. All women have it in their nature to repair, the question now is why? The idea almost seems as if it comes from a historical sense of gender roles, most of the time women would be in the house cooking, cleaning and doing other tasks while men were out working. So in this time a certain sense of stability grew with how life for each different gender functioned. Stereotypes also cloud up judgment and make certain human patterns more obvious, such as a man having to be macho. Stereotypically guys are not meant to be emotional so why would a guy be useful with dealing with the reparation of emotions if for so long it was seen as unmanly to think that way. While on the other hand women were always depicted as being more in touch with emotions which would certainly help with interacting with other people having difficulty coping with certain feelings. Though these stereotypes are not up to date with women working for hands on jobs as much as men there is no coincidence that these stereotypes fit hand in hand with Spelman’s explanation of women’s repair.