How to Fuck Up

Because you probably will, at some point in your life.

Since it's likely that you're going to fuck up, in some way, at some time, why not do it with grace and aplomb?

Me? -- I think that I "fuck up" daily.

For me, currently, my main areas of "fucking up" are: Acting towards other beings in ways that I wouldn't want them to act toward me, not upholding or adhering to my own principles, not practicing what I preach, not walking my talk, etc. . . . . . . oh, just a thousand different things or so.

Remaining conscious and consistent can be a real bitch, sometimes.

However, I really want to remain conscious and I want to be consistent to my own principles and ethics. For me, that is the definition of personal integrity.

If your personal goals/values/ethics/principles in life are different from mine, I have no problem with that -- honestly. Still, I'm guessing that, even if your goals, principles, and ethical standards differ from mine, it's likely that you might "fuck up" with your own stuff every now and again.

That's what this post is about. "How to Fuck Up" -- and how to clean up when you fuck up.

I have a little tool that I call "The Four A's" (I learned it from an absolutely fantastic teacher) and it has helped me through numerous fuck-ups in my life.

When you "Fuck Up" (whether the fuck-up is minor or major) practice the "Four A's".

  1. Acknowledgment
  2. Apology
  3. Amends
  4. Action
#1) Acknowledgment -- is really important, IMO, because if you don't realize what you actually did, and how it was "fucked up", there's a high probability that you are going to do it again -- a very high probability.

#2) Apology -- is also really important -- but it has to be genuine (which requires #1 - Acknowledgment). Saying things like "I'm sorry if you felt bad about what I said/wrote" or "I'm sorry if your feelings got hurt", is, IMO, completely different from saying "I'm sorry that I said/wrote that. I see how it was fucked up, and here's how I know that it was fucked up . . . . . ". (Keep in mind that "if" is a word reserved for hypotheticals, and doesn't usually refer to real life. When used in apology, "if" is usually just a dilutive, and if you can't really apologize, then don't apologize at all. Sort of a perverse Thumper ethic.)

#3) Amends -- sometimes the energy required to actually think about how you fucked up and make an honest acknowledgment/apology is enough to return balance to the situation (depends on the type of fuck up, though). In some cases, "making amends" might also mean returning money/energy/time that your fuck-up created for someone else. This can be returned in any of a number of creative ways. Example: If you got all defensive in an argument, and therefore the argument took eight hours instead of 30 minutes (hey, I'm a lesbian -- I can DO me some processing!), consider just giving the person with whom you got all defensive eight hours of your time to do for them something that they might have gotten done if you hadn't been all uppity-up in yourself being a defensive shit (not that I've ever done that . . . .no, that has never happened with me. . . . . OK, maybe just that once . . . OK -- Fuck it! I'm completely busted here . . . .)

#4) Action -- This may be the most important of the 4 A's. If you know that you did something that was fucked up, and you've expressed that you're genuinely sorry that you did this fucked up thing, then really, the only concrete evidence of this will be that you will change what you do in the future. For me, if I don't take this step (action), the other three are just so much manipulation.

If you're thinking, "Well, if #4 is so important, and is really the critical thing, why bother with the other three?" Just trust me on this and try steps 1-3 out in real time. I've found them to be amazing, when combined with step 4. There is nothing . . . . nothing! . . . that melts my heart more than a heartfelt acknowledgment, apology, and offer of amends.

Not only that, but taking steps #1-#3 before moving into step #4 actually tends to make step #4 easier for me. If I know the other person now knows that I know that I fucked up, and that I felt bad about fucking up, and if I know that my fuck-ups have consequences (as in the amends I made), somehow taking a different action becomes so much more . . . . what's the word I'm looking for? . . . . . . Motivational?

If you're wondering what stimulated this post -- no, I did not specifically fuck up today (that I am aware of at the moment) -- (although it's likely that I did fuck up in some way today) -- (ok -- more than likely -- probable) -- (ok, more than probable -- nearly certain).

I'm OK with that. I don't mind fucking up nearly as much when I know the way back to grace.

My dad, who was a high-school band teacher before he retired, used to say: "If you're going to play a note wrong, at least play it wrong with gusto -- that way, someone might notice and give you the opportunity to correct it."

I love my dad.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:40 PM  


Melissa McEwan said... November 16, 2007 at 3:31 PM  

My dad, who was a high-school band teacher before he retired

Maybe this is why we were such immediate kin, as I'm the daughter of two high school teachers myself. ;-)

Great post, btw.

PortlyDyke said... November 16, 2007 at 3:44 PM  

Yeah, mom: school librarian, dad: music teacher.

No wonder I turned out progressive ;)

Emily said... November 17, 2007 at 6:18 AM  

Saying things like "I'm sorry if you felt bad about what I said/wrote" or "I'm sorry if your feelings got hurt", is, IMO, completely different from saying "I'm sorry that I said/wrote that."

This is so true. I get frustrated that people will say the first, assuming that the rest of us don't know the difference between the two.

You're absolutely right that the process of a return to grace requires all of those steps -- it's important for people to connect in these ways and hurt feelings, or suspicions of manipulation prevent trust and true connection between people.

These things are hard to do -- they require a lot of self-reflection. And a self-reflection that might uncover some things about ourselves that we don't like -- like the fact that I'm not perfect and that I'm not the center of the universe.

Those are hard things, but that's certainly a much better way to life, I think. I prefer connection with others -- with the need to humble myself -- to the smug satisfaction of being convinced that I'm always right (particularly since I'm often not).

Thoughtful post ...

Anonymous said... November 17, 2007 at 8:59 AM  

Your discussion makes it so clear that there is divinity in the process--that you can put this process into a succinct methodology is what makes you such a great teacher, IMO. And, it illuminated for me that "fucking up" always contains a gift for the "fucker upper," would that there was a way to mine for it. And Lo, the 4 A's are just such a way to find the gift, and use it. Thanks, again.

mouthybitch said... November 17, 2007 at 2:47 PM  

You know, I used to assume everyone knew the difference between a faux apology (it's really all your fault) and a real apology (I messed up), but as I've been listening to people, I'm not so sure. Of course I also thought everybody had to learn from their mistakes at some point. Apparently not, so I feel sorry for them. Their parents did them no favors.

So thanks for articulating this. It totally needed to be said. :)

mouthybitch said... November 17, 2007 at 2:49 PM  

Shit, I meant to add that I feel qualified to say what I did based on the fact that I have my foot in my mouth so often I'm trying to find bubble-gum tennis shoes.

Doctor Science said... April 28, 2008 at 6:44 PM  

Keep in mind that "if" is a word reserved for hypotheticals, and doesn't usually refer to real life. When used in apology, "if" is usually just a dilutive

On the contrary, "if" makes it what I call a "politician's apology", which is *not an apology at all*. A Politician's Apology actually makes it all the fault of the whiny person who claims to be hurt:

A says, "what you said was very hurtful to me."

B says, "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings" -- kind of implies that the issue of whether any feelings were hurt is hypothetical, doesn't it? In other words, B is saying that A's statement of hurt feelings might be untrue, and that B will apologize for any *real* hurt feelings, should they show up.

The trouble is, politicians use the Politician's Apology so much that people get used to thinking of it as a real apology, when it's actually a deflection and an insult.

Stefanie said... April 29, 2008 at 9:29 PM  

I know this was posted in November, but I saw it at Shakesville, and, frankly, it's the perfect timing for me. I'm going through some stuff with my dad so I printed this out and gave it to him, since he specifically asked me what I want in an apology

Sadly, he didn't even get what it was about, but maybe if he stares at it long enough something will sink in.

But anyways.. just wanted to thank you for this. It's a WONDERFUL post and one I try to follow in my own life.

Anonymous said... April 30, 2008 at 10:00 AM  

thank you. may I share this link from my journal?

PortlyDyke said... April 30, 2008 at 11:16 AM  

You certainly may, Hara.

Anonymous said... November 14, 2008 at 5:59 PM  

"I'm sorry you feel that way" is the phrase I hear a lot with faux apologies.

"You can't apologize for my feelings, but you can apologize for your actions" is my current response.

Excellent post. Thanks.

Anonymous said... February 7, 2009 at 3:19 AM  

Thanks so much - going to print this off and stick it on my wall so I don't forget it.

Dr. Laura Marie Grimes said... October 27, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

This is brilliant--thank you! I am going to link to it at my place where I have recently been reflecting on these very issues.

I am passionate about all four A's on both sides of screwing up....Was was once complimented by someone I had really hurt for the sincerity and eloquence and action follow up of my apology. My rueful reply: "I get a lot of practice!"

Anonymous said... December 27, 2010 at 6:51 PM  

Old post, I know, but I'd never thought about how different the words "sorry if" and "sorry that" are. Thank you for pointing that out!

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