The Lost Art of Apologizing

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Despite the growing popularity of internet shopping, this month tends to be one of traffic, travelers, and shoppers on a frantic mission. If you’ve been out in the holiday shopping this season, you may have ended up, like me, wrestling for a simple lane change in what should have been a mid-afternoon lull.

12-20-2013 3-39-02 PMI was raised on winding roads where hay bailers and cotton pickers are the only things that slow you down, and you wave when you pass another vehicle. In four lanes, scattered red lights, and 60 mph, I tend to do some of my worst driving.

Years ago, as a teenager, I took a car full of people to an event. The officer who pulled me over said I was going 58 in a 45. I couldn’t believe I had been moving that fast, but I was in a hurry and distracted, and – it didn’t matter. It was my word against the officer’s.

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I didn’t try to argue with him; I took the blame and apologized. Taken aback, the officer let me go with a warning.

I was told later that having a speeder simply apologize is so uncommon that he probably wasn’t sure what to do with me. Granted, I was also on the verge of tears, and I don’t care what you wear on your belt, no man likes to make a woman cry.

But the power of an apology is hard to overrate. Think of how many times a dangerous situation has been defused by someone taking the blame. Unless it’s a major, or a repeat offense, it is hard to hold something against someone who will totally accept that they are at fault. What would politics be like if those who ran our government contritely offered their apologies and their willingness to make amends, rather than denying the obvious? What if we had leaders who actually understood that the first rule of leadership is, like Hopper tells the princess in “A Bug’s Life:” “Everything is your fault.”

I’m not talking about the kind of apology that is immediately followed by a “but.” That’s not an apology; that’s a quantifier. An excuse, wrapped in its politest form. I’m talking about saying sorry, and meaning it.

A true apology is a forgotten art.

Section 32-5A-11 of the Alabama traffic law says, “This chapter shall be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law of various jurisdictions.”

When you get pulled over, the verdict is up to the person in the uniform. Anyone who has seen Barney Fife at work knows that you don’t flaunt your disregard for the law without consequences. But what about asking for forgiveness? How about admitting a fault, promising to turn it around, and penitently requesting a pardon?

We all mess up. There’s no shame in admitting your guilt, and promising to do better, as long as you do as you promise. Let’s make an apology, and carry it out. Let’s remember the forgotten art.
By: Melissa Kirby

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