Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Cleaning Up My Messes

Napa Valley, California, USA

August 27, 2022

"'What I did is not OK (end of story)' works better than 'I apologize for what I did.'." ...   speaking with Laurence Platt in Visits With A Friend IX I (Intimacy In A Crowded Place) 
This essay, Cleaning Up My Messes, is the companion piece to Space For Redemption: When "I'm Sorry" Isn't Enough.

Conversations For Transformation receives its one million six hundred and fifty thousandth view with the publishing of Cleaning Up My Messes.


Title by Laurence Platt

Photograph courtesy
I told a friend that I've been a graduate of Werner's work for exactly forty four years today. "Wow!" he said, "That's incredible! You must have cleaned it all up by now.".

That really got me (it's an interesting conclusion to draw, for sure). I looked at it, trying to see if I could discern the total truth of it for myself. "Well, first of all ..." I eventually said, "no-one ever gets it all  cleaned up. There's always more. There's elephants all the way down  - and as of right now, forty four years later, I still haven't touched bottom.

Secondly, I can tell there has  been one massive shift in how this process plays out for me. The truth is I still mess up. Really. What's shifted isn't that I've cleaned it all up by now, or that I don't still mess up now and again. What's shifted is the velocity  with which I clean up my messes ie how fast  I clean them up once I realize I messed up.".

There's a generosity that goeswith  (as Alan Watts may have said) me cleaning up my messes. But it derives only secondarily from freeing up power for the others involved to be made whole. Primarily it derives from freeing up power for me  to be made whole. It's not altruistic. So if I realize I messed up, I'll clean it up even if the others involved didn't notice  (the notion that "You only messed up if you got caught" is disgusting to me). The sooner I clean up a mess I made, the sooner any lost power gets reinstated.

So to make certain you know, I do make messes occasionally. In this way, not much has changed in these forty four years. But the velocity with which I'm on to them now when I do, and the speed with which I clean them up once I am, is faster now, much  faster, deploying (as I like to call it) "the shortest distance between two people". Cleaning up my messes as fast as possible as soon as I realize I've made them, reinstates workability  - even if the others involved didn't notice I messed up.

When I realize I've made a mess, cleaning it up secondarily requires I make good on what I originally promised (ie the promise against which my mess shows up as a mess). It requires I do what I should have done originally which I didn't do, or it requires I undo what I shouldn't have done originally, and did instead. But primarily it requires I take responsibility for messing up, without which cleaning up my messes is covert milquetoast. In this regard, the traditional apology may not be sufficient. "What I did is not OK (end of story)" works better than "I apologize for what I did" (try each on for size; notice where each comes from; notice where each lands).

Cleaning up my messes ie reinstating workability, wholeness, and completion when I mess up, is really just a matter of integrity. And without integrity nothing works.

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