Letting go of the “undo button”

I was an idiot. I read an entry on one of Susan’s diaries. And I gave my opinion. Thing is, like an idiot, I didn’t check out my assumptions before hand. Generally a bad idea, I know. But every now and then, I do something dumb. I found out I was wrong. Acknowledged it, and apologized.

Of course, I considered just deleting the comment. I thought about it for….all of thirty seconds, I think. I eventually realized that I was looking down a metophorical road that started in that direction, and I decided I didn’t like where that road led. So in the end, I decided that for me, deleting the comment was a bad idea.

You see, for me, it’s too easy to treat the handy “delete comment” feature as an “undo button.” I think everyone’s familiar with the “undo button,” right? I think we all wanted one when we were a kids. (Heck, I find myself wondering if you ever really stop wanting one when you’re an adult.) If you did something wrong, you’d press your magic “undo button,” and it would magically make it all right, as if what you did never happened. No guilt. No hard feelings. No lectures from Mom. No extra chores or days without television.

Even as an adult, I have to admit that I would love an “undo” button. I’d like to be able to undo the mistakes I’ve made at work and the problems I’ve created with coworkers so I didn’t have to spend time rebuilding a sense of teamwork and trust with them, for one example.

And to me, that’s what the delete option feels like. It’s a way for me to go, “I can delete that comment and make it as if I never left it.” In this case, I probably could’ve even done so. After all, Susan wasn’t online. She hadn’t seen it yet.

But the thing is, I did leave it. And I don’t feel right about pretending I didn’t. Even if no one else knows about it. I’d be deceiving everyone but myself. And I’d be trying to deceive myself in the process, on some level. And that thought bothers me a great deal.

The other thing is, it seems to me that an “undo button” — even one that just let’s you pretend you never did something stupid but doesn’t really “undo” it — would have the side effect of removing reminders of the lessons I learned from my mistakes. After all, how can I learn from a mistake I’m pretending never happened? How can I do so even if I just try to forget it ever happened?

To me, leaving that comment there is about character building the hard way. It serves as a reminder to me — and let’s everyone else know about it, which I think is good in some ways, too — that says, “Hey, remember what happened the last time you spoke without making sure your facts were straight? Maybe you ought to make sure you’re not doing that again.”

It’s painful, but then isn’t that the nature of character building?

Leave a Reply