We all know people who have never been wrong. The Pope, for example, has long been considered infallible, at least by the faithful. That includes centuries of Popes who said, infallibly (before the Church revised its infallible dogma in recent times ), that the Jews collectively were eternally responsible for deicide, the murder of the Son of God, and should be eternally despised for having the blood of the Lamb on their murderous Jewish hands.
Leave aside Popes, godly men who are so close to the Lord that their every opinion is beyond any possible reproach (if you are faithful to the one true faith). We all know people in our lives who have never made a mistake. To those of us who have made various mistakes, felt regrets and tried to make amends, these people may be hard to understand. I will offer the example of some of the folks I know who have shown this sturdy belief in their own infallibility, sometimes in the face of impressive evidence to the contrary and at significant personal cost to themselves.
Famously, in my life, perhaps the single most unhappy person I’ve ever known was also the most certain in his eternal moral correctness. An exemplar par excellence of the Repetition Compulsion, he was compelled to live the identical, miserable three act play over and over. Act one: great excitement at having finally encountered an amazing person or thing. Act two: ominous cracks appear in this idealized facade. Act three: betrayal.
The salient thing about this little play, repeated over and over with countless new cast members, was that it illustrated the most important thing in this fellow’s life: that he was right, and always acting in good faith, and that the world was unjustly ready to kick him hard in the balls. Always being the unfairly betrayed victim allowed him to always feel justified. It didn’t really make him happy, and it left him without a single friend, but it made him feel righteous, I suppose.
I had a good friend from childhood, a very good musician, who wound up in a decades-long nightmare marriage. I understand they finally separated, but a lot of severe damage was done to their children, and to their other relationships, over the course of the long, brutal war that was their marriage. My friend commented once about certain innate abilities I had in music that he felt he lacked. I noted a kind of envy sometimes as we played. I suppose his feeling that he lacked the innate abilities I took for granted ate at him more and more over the years, that he felt himself to be in some kind of unfair competition with me as a guitarist . He could not refrain, for this and other reasons, from provoking me, as his life got worse and worse.
In fairness to him, he knew that no matter how much he provoked me I’d never slug him. Neither of us is that kind of guy. I asked him many times to back off when he was provoking me, as I was becoming aggravated by his superior tone and refusal to yield on any point. He always denied he was provoking me, always insisted that the problem was mine alone, I was just an angry asshole easily provoked by totally innocent behaviors. I tried for a long time to save a doomed, zombie friendship that dated back to fourth grade. In the end he could not admit to ever having done anything that could have made me angry, claiming sullenly that his apologies, for whatever it was I thought he’d done to me, were never enough for me. His wife, irrationally, insanely angry at him for no reason whatsoever, another case in point.
Is it that hard to admit having done something insensitive, dumb, wrong. something that irks the shit out of somebody else? To some it appears to be impossible. As close as we get to an acknowledgement from this type is the if-pology (tip of the yarmulke to landsman Harry Shearer): IF I did something wrong, I apologize. IF you are so oversensitive that you feel hurt and need an apology for something I didn’t even do, I apologize. IF you can’t move on, pussy that you are, without my saying I’m sorry, well, if that’s the case, I’m truly sorry. Asshole.
When you wrong somebody you love, in a moment of anger, say by threatening to murder their parents, their children and them, the proper, humane thing to do afterwards is to humbly apologize. Without a show of repentance and the reassurance a sincere apology can provide, the threat stands: justified by the extraordinary circumstances that forced me to threaten you. Preserving the option to do the unregretted thing next time and the time after that. I always see the stubborn refusal to admit wrongdoing, no matter what, as the cardinal mark of the pathetically insecure asshole.
The people we allow to stay in our intimate lives are those we trust not to behave hurtfully toward us. We hurt each other sometimes, in thoughtless moments, it happens often enough in life. We trust each other to consider hurtful actions and make amends when needed. When we are aggrieved, a sincere apology can make a big difference in how we feel. The same people, it seems, who can never be wrong often find it impossible to accept an apology once they’ve been hurt. Go figure that one out.
We can argue about whether strapping someone to a board, gagging them and pouring water down their throat until seconds before they drown is barbaric torture or legally justifiable “enhanced interrogation”. We can debate the difference between a political assassination and “targeted killing” and which is legal and which is not. The only thing to remember is that those who would use any means to dominate others don’t care about the niceties of these “debates.” They care about being right, winning. And if I’m wrong? FUCK YOU — you asked for war — Havoc! motherfucker, and let slip the fucking dogs of fucking war, asshole!
In the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Paul VI repudiated belief in collective Jewish guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus. It declared that the accusation could not be made “against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today”.
 This is a well-known syndrome among many guitar players, sadly. There is something of a gunslinger mentality at jam sessions sometimes, a sorry macho holdover from a more brutal age. Or maybe this age is simply as brutal as any other. I’ve seen this competitive shit with guitar players over the years and it seems to miss the entire point of why we play music. Go fucking figure.