I’ve been thinking about the power of apology lately. I’ve been noticing that the people for whom I have the most respect don’t hesitate to say “I was wrong,” or “I’m sorry I…” On the other hand, the people I have the hardest time respecting seem constitutionally unable to take responsibility for their own mistakes. Even when they try, it comes out sounding like “I may have been partly at fault, but…” or “It may seem that I was wrong, but…” They just can’t do it.
We won't let go of something because it is a blow to our ego to say we were wrong, or even to say, "I'm sorry I think I may have misunderstood what you meant by that statement." Sometimes people seem to get the notion that admitting they are wrong is the same thing as admitting some kind of weakness. I know for myself admitting I was wrong was the same thing as admitting that people who told me I was stupid. Since I knew that was not true, I would adamantly defend any position I took, even after I was convinced I was wrong.
Apologizing freely requires a good deal of courage. It’s not comfortable for any of us to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something we’ve done has caused others harm or inconvenience. So when someone truly apologizes, we know he or she is putting honesty and honor above personal comfort or self-protection. It’s inspiring, and it feels brave.
Next time when we are clearly in the wrong, take deep breath, put aside our self-justification, our excuses, our blame, our defensiveness, and simply apologize. Being courageous in this way is generally scary in anticipation. But it feels great once we have done it.