That first impulse…

The Power of an Apology | LinkedIn.

This brief article touches on something I constantly have to work on – resisting the urge to explain why I did something that bothered or hurt someone else instead of just apologizing.

I don’t really know where this impulse came from, only that it’s not a good one. I do know that I’m personally always looking for underlying causes in everything. Why is a very important question to me, and it has been for as long as I can remember. But I am not typical.

Most folks are only vaguely interested in why, especially in this context. If you’ve said or done something that hurt another person’s feelings there is, as the author says, no amount of logic that will make them unfeel that pain. A little bit of compassion though will help it to heal though.

I do suppose that part of my reluctance to go to that apology right off the bat is that the words “I’m sorry” have been horridly abused in our culture for at least a generation. Most often when I hear someone say they’re sorry it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t. What they actually want is just to be released from the obligation of being responsible for hurting someone else’s feelings or transgressing against them in some way. “I’m sorry” is used as a get out of jail free card that’s supposed to end the encounter and allow the offender to walk away from it.

My guess is that this attitude towards apologizing comes from elementary school, where children are programmed to say “I’m sorry” if and when they get caught doing something they shouldn’t to another kid. I’ve seen this played out with my kids on the schoolyard. One kid picks up a ball and whangs it at another kid’s head. The injured kid cries. A teacher or parent asks what happened. The injured kid says “Tommy hit me with a ball.” The adult drags Tommy over and says, “Tommy, say you’re sorry.” Tommy says, “I’m sorry” and is released to throw another ball at another kid’s head.

On the one hand I don’t blame schools for making this a shallow process. There are too many kids, not enough teachers and not enough time. I really do wish it were fixed though. Values are not being taught in schools, and no, I am not talking about religion in schools. No thanks. I’m talking about social values.

At some point the time should be taken to explain to children that “I’m sorry” is one of those things, like “I love you” that you should never say unless you mean it. And parents and teachers need to realize that any kid who hurts another kid, physically or emotionally, and doesn’t feel bad about it is exhibiting sociopathic behavior.

An apology, when sincerely meant and sincerely felt, is powerful. It acknowledges that none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, and we can learn from them and put effort into correcting our errors.

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