On Punishments and Atonement

July 12th, 2014

Are you wearing that as punishment, because I didn’t ask you to?

No, as an apology.

 

I was not wearing a skirt when he picked me up at the airport after my trip abroad. So, a few days later, at an event, I wore an extremely short skirt. I did not feel like I was being punished, I certainly wasn’t punishing myself, I was atoning for wearing jeans.

There is a time and place for punishment (usually properly discussed and agreed upon before the fact), but I much prefer atonement. I like to be active in making up for a mistake or lapse in mindfulness. Another time, he had me clean the mud out of the soles of his boots. This felt right to me, though I wish I’d had better tools to do it.

Punishment has a very negative connotation, a reinforcement of the bad feelings the mistake has caused. For someone who is very good at beating myself up, punishment makes it that much worse. Atonement has a much more positive connotation for me. I am doing something to bring happiness, to drive away the negative feelings and replace them with positive ones. And, being service oriented doesn’t hurt either, because doing for him makes me feel good to begin with.

At times, I’ve heard people say “don’t apologize, it doesn’t make it better.” And I think that’s where atonement comes in, too. Saying you’re sorry can only go so far, doing something to make it better, to make life better, can go so much farther.

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