One of the nice things about doing this blog every week is having the chance to stay tuned to the different events, relationships and situations I encounter throughout my week. I’m always thinking “Should I write about this one?” as I go through my day.
This week, I was reminded of how difficult it can be to remain impartial and refrain when someone else is really doing something that feels offensive – especially if that person just refuses to apologize. I was at a baseball game with my 12-year-old son on Sunday. It was an important game, in the life of a 12-year-old, because it meant the difference between ending the season in 2nd or 3rd place if they won or lost. The team was playing very well and my son was having one of his best games ever. There was a young man umpiring behind the plate. He clearly had not been given direction as to what the rules were, because he kept making very bad calls. In three cases, the calls led to the opposing team getting three runs. It was so extreme that even my son’s level-headed, calm coach was boiling over with frustration.
I was studiously watching the umpire and his actions and reactions. He seemed as if he didn’t care that the calls were bad and the team was devastated. My son came over to the fence where I was watching and said, “Mom – I don’t mind if we play badly and lose, but it stinks if we lose because this guy is so WRONG!”
When I saw the umpire in the parking lot later on, he was on his cell phone and clearly upset. I’m sure being in the hot seat wasn’t much fun for him, either. When my son came out and got into the car with me, he was very frustrated. “If only he had said ‘I’m sorry,’ Mom,” he said to me, “it would’ve made it better, but he pretended like nothing was wrong.”
That vignette summed up two of the most powerful words in the universe – I’m sorry. When someone does something to us that upsets us, whether they mean to or not, it hurts. It seems that it hurts so much more, though, when the other person just won’t admit they are sorry. But, as I write about over and over again, we can’t get other people to do what we want them to –we can only worry about our own actions.
In this case, I used the incident to show my son how this umpire was causing him emotional upset and distress. I showed him how that man might also be having a bad evening knowing that he did something wrong, but it didn’t matter – we had to ensure that we didn’t ruin our evening over the series of events. The worst four-letter word in the dictionary is “fair,” because in reality there is no such thing. I wanted my son to understand that life isn’t fair, but we don’t want to use this as an excuse to devolve into a hating and unhappy human being. We have to shake it off and move on.
The other thing we were able to talk about was the importance of admitting when you’re wrong and taking responsibility for your behavior. It doesn’t feel good to most of us to say “I made a mistake,” but when we do we reach a deeper level in our relationship with others because we are able to humble ourselves to another person. If that person is important to us, offering the olive branch and admitting our own human frailties can be very freeing and offer us release. Holding on to hurt knowing that we’ve hurt someone else is never good for anyone.
This week, think about someone you can offer an olive branch to – perhaps someone you have had difficulty with and you’ve allowed a chasm to grow between you. Be the one to offer the branch. The other person may not accept it, but we need to make the effort anyway.