The power of an apology

The power of an apology

I was walking along at a pretty good clip, a quarter of the way through my Daily Constitutional when I met her. Almost clear of the driveway, I caught, out of the corner of my eye, a sedan barreling my way.

Its pilot blissfully unaware that I existed, her hair the same shade of blue as her car, she backed out onto the street probably thinking of a million things that she needed to accomplish that day. It appeared as though running me over was one of them. As her rear quarter panel narrowly missed me, I began my silent litany.

Instantly, my brain started whirling.

Indignant, I began an inner rant, railing at her incompetence. I was ramping up my dark fantasies of rounding up geriatric drivers and using a huge magnet to suck their car keys from their papery-skinned hands when I noticed her again.

She had pulled over, rolled down her window and was trying to get my attention.

“I’m so very sorry,” she began. “I wasn’t paying attention and I didn’t see you at all. I hope you are alright. I’ll be more careful in the future.”

Do you know what the dying Pac Man sounds like?

That’s how I felt. Deflated and chastened by my own higher-self. I managed to chirp, “No problem. I’m fine, ma’am. Have a pleasant afternoon.”

What I felt like doing? Apologizing to her.

“Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck

This moment was a gift. This woman had given me the opportunity to exercise my faith in action. Was I going to treat someone the way I would wish to be treated (ie. being forgiven)? Or was I going to continue on the trajectory of being an arrogant jerk?

In accepting her apology, we had completed a social contract. These sorts of interactions, replicated across communities and between people, form the tethers that hold us together. They constitute the million individual and independent decisions that forge our common future.

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.  ~Paul Boese

When we apologize, we allow for expansiveness and possibility. We are taking responsibility for the action that caused someone else pain or inconvenience. Accountability for our actions leads to mindfulness, which in turn allows us to change our actions. This chain of decisions anchors independence.

Her choice to apologize affected me and will affect my interactions with other people, from this point onward. I’m glad that our paths crossed. Has there been a time in your life when you’ve had to apologize? How did it affect your relationship with that person? with others since?

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Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1gor @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” them on facebook.

6 Comments

  1. Kay Van Hoesen

    When someone offers a sincere apology, it’s hard not to accept. If someone apologizes to me, in most cases, I feel like I want to hug them. Maybe that’s because I know how I feel — like a complete idiot — when I apologize for my stupidity.

    Reply
    • Yep. We’ve all been guilty of doing something without thinking. It’s good to keep in mind. Hugs are good. :) Thanks, Kay!

      Reply
  2. Kathryn Mann

    Very nice, thank you for sharing. I have been put in that situation as well. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own world, that we assume the worst in people. An apology like this brings you back to the reality that people are actually quite good.

    Reply
    • Molly Cantrell-Kraig

      You make a wonderful point. :) Thank you so much for your kind (and astute) comments! My best, M.

      Reply
  3. Molly Cantrell-Kraig

    Thanks, Sharon! It really was one of those moments when I knew that I was being not necessarily *tested* but being asked to decide if I was going to live by my values.

    And yes, you are correct when you say that we never know what someone else could be going through. Thanks so much for your comment today! Best, M. :)

    Reply
  4. Sharon Greenthal

    I applaud your choice of accepting her apology. I have tried to be the same way as I navigate the world – everyone (well, nearly) deserves the benefit of the doubt. I have often told my kids – “be nice to people – you never know what they’re going through.”

    Reply

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