Sunday, November 18, 2012

Helpful Apologies

Jeremy Taylor, writing from several centuries back, states the sixteenth rule for humble living (out of nineteen), “Be not always ready to excuse every oversight, or indiscretion, or ill action, but if thou beest guilty of it confess it plainly.” To beest humble, one must beest ready to apologize.
            When I’m queen, all citizens will be required to take a class on humble living, at least one whole week, students will practice making apologies. A true apology comes from a contrite heart when the person realizes that a personal mistake or selfishness caused another to suffer.
            This past year, a company charged us double for an annual insurance premium. Fortunately, our bank account had enough to cover the insurance company’s mistake. By the time I discovered the error it was closing time on Friday, and the company employee said she would look into it the next business day. I may have imagined the disbelief in her voice, but it seemed she doubted that they would make such a mistake.
            On Monday morning, the representative phoned me to say they had double billed us. As we closed out our conversation, I thanked her for solving the issue. She replied, “No problem.” I realize that “No problem,” has become a phrase that can mean, “I’m happy to take care of this for you.” However, when a person is troubled in the least or double billed several thousands, a more appropriate admission of guilt keeps customers happy, “I’m sorry we double billed you. We do appreciate your business.”
            I bring this topic up because often the phrase “no problem” has filled in where an apology would be more appropriate. After a customer has struggled with righting a billing issue, the last thing I imagine they want to hear in the same sentence are the words “no” and “problem.” Businesses would do well to train their personnel in making sincere apologies.
            Most apologies come from humble people, who have consciences, and who have made a practice of saying, “I’m sorry.” However, some find confessing a wrong difficult. While others, will only admit a wrong when caught or confronted. We’re also good at vague apologies, “I’m sorry for what happened.” Instead, a noble apology will admit fault and seek forgiveness, “I had no right to call you names. Please forgive me.” Mignon McLaughlin said, “True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive.”
            When was the last time you admitted a wrong aloud? Take a minute to ponder that. We commit infractions almost daily, and they often harm someone. In the heat of a moment, we verbally wound husband, wife, child, or close friend. We cast rude or impatient glances. We become exasperated and impatient and it shows in our behavior.  
            Another kind of apology is the one that has a “but” in the middle. “I’m sorry, but my alarm didn’t go off and that’s why I’m late.” As one person said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
               This week, act upon your pledge to live a humble life. Apologize when you’re wrong. Be sincere. Ask for forgiveness. Leave out the “but.” To better your life and your family’s lives, remember what Lynn Johnston says, “An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.”
            Hunger for Humility (Week 46): “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

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