Shortly before we were married, I was given an invaluable piece of advice by my mother (I think... but I'm not sure... many people were giving us lots of advice at the time) This one piece of advice stuck most firmly in my mind and has affected our marriage perhaps more than any other.
"Make it your goal to always be the first to apologize."
As I mentioned recently in a Facebook status, my kids have been fighting A LOT lately. It must be their ages and stage of development-- it never used to be this bad. Perhaps it has to do with Judah moving out of the Baby place in the family, into Middle Child. But whatever it is, they are at each other day and night.
For example I just had to stop writing and pull them out of the pool, where they were engaged in a full-on fist fight at the steps. They are now sitting in deck chairs, glaring at each other-- a mandatory cooling off period before I go out and make them apologize to each other.
Last night in the shower (because, as I have mentioned, I do a lot of my deep thinking in the shower) I decided to take a positive approach to this situation and use this current tumultuous time in their relationship to more aggressively instruct them in the Art of Apology.
When we were kids, I remember apologies being an every-day part of life. It went like this:
*sounds of fighting*
"Tell your sister you're sorry!"
"No, say it like you mean it"
*muttered response* "That's ok."
End of story.
I don't think I ever noticed the inadequacy of this model until I once "accepted" an apology from a young child I was babysitting in this manner. His mother responded, "No, it's not ok, but you could forgive him." Embarrassing, for sure, but I've been grateful for her response since then because it has stuck with me over the years (as embarrassing encounters do tend to).
We've evolved a model for apologies over the years that I'd like to share with you in my next post. But I feel like I need to preface that discussion by saying that I in no way intend this discussion to be a criticism of the way our parents taught us. I mean, they introduced the whole concept of repentance and forgiveness to both J and myself. We're just improving the technique-- building on their foundation.
And apparently we're doing something right, anyway, because when I went out to talk to the kids, they had already apologized and reconciled and were waiting with penitent, downcast eyes :) I just sent them back into the pool. It doesn't really matter what who did to whom. The whole problem was that each had, in some way offended the other. But once forgiveness was asked and granted, it just didn't seem appropriate to discuss it further.
As always, y'all feel free to chime in with questions, ideas and suggestions :)