Have you ever noticed how most people spend far too much time making excuses instead of making amends? I’ve never been able to figure out why that is, especially when a simple and heartfelt apology would do the trick instantly and put you back on the road to happiness.
- We dummies would rather explain and justify and defend and excuse than just say “You know what? I was wrong. Big fat wrong. Sorry.”
And it really doesn’t matter what the situation is. Whether in a romantic relationship, at work, with your kids or even people you don’t know, sorry does seem to be the hardest word (sorry about that).
It’s a lesson I taught my son the hard way. At least hard for me. But in the end, awesome. You see, he and I were on a little road trip and I got pulled over for speeding. My son was about 10 years old and this was the first time we had ever been in any way involved with an officer of the law. I could tell my baby was scared. Hell, I was scared (although he did look mighty fine in those motorcycle boots). I was scared because I knew I was GUILTY!
The cop approached my open window. I thrust both hands out at him and said dramatically “Cuff me now, sir. I know I have sinned!”
A huge grin enveloped his face as I continued sheepishly “So how fast was I going?”
He told me.
And that, my friends, was that. I apologized profusely, promised I would never speed again and that lovely man let me off with a warning. My son was relieved (so was I) and my son was instantly smarter. Because he saw – in action – the power of accountability. And contrition.
A few weeks later, my sister got pulled over on her way to work. At the time she was a high school principal and as such regaled the officer with meaningful tales of her importance and the necessity that she get to school post haste.
“Fine,” answered he dryly. “Leave earlier and don’t speed.”
And he gave her a ticket.
See how it works? If you have done wrong, whatever that wrong is, admit it. Just make sure your apologies are true. There’s nothing worse than a sarcastic “Sorreeeeee” through clenched teeth.
But most important – be accountable! Take ownership of your mistakes. Acknowledge them. Own up big time. Because the truth is, you owning up is the only way the person you have offended (be it cop, judge, lover, friend or co-worker) can get closure. And once they get it, they will give it to you.
Well at least most times.
I try daily to practice what I preach. This means I also apologize daily. Well … pretty much.
As for my son – many years after the cop incident he attended a summer camp where each section was required to make a presentation about something meaningful. Meaningful to their peers and fellow-campers and meaningful in the grand scheme of life.
The camp director was quite pleased to inform me that my son had suggested his section’s theme, and that it was a good one.
Accountability. I was one damn proud mama.
And I still thank that cop … and that moment. Because he taught me a huge life lesson which I was able to share with my boy. Not only that, but the next time I got pulled over for speeding, I did the exact same thing …