Oops, I did it again!

Two words that will fix it when you get it wrong

Stephen Covey tells of a little girl holding two apples when her mother comes along and asks her for one of them. The girl looks up at her mom and takes a bite of one apple, then the other. The mom feels disappointed at her daughter’s selfishness. Then the little girl gives one of her bitten apples to her mom and says, “Mommy, here you are. This is the sweeter one.”

To get through life we have to make assumptions about what someone else is feeling and thinking. We assess intentions to decide if someone is kind or mean or, well, just not very bright. And, most of the time our assumptions are spot-on, or at least close enough, so that life moves along in fun, productive and relational ways.

The danger is that none of us is “right enough” all of the time. When our assumptions about someone else are wrong, how would we know? And when we know, what can we do?

Knowing starts with a virtue that doesn’t get much play these days: humility (or being humble).

We like to win; we want to be right and get to the top. Too often humility is perceived to be a weakness — it’s really not. It takes a great deal of maturity, calmness and fortitude to be comfortable admitting you don’t have all the answers or that, oops, I got it wrong … again.

When you feel that way, welcome to the club. More often than I like, I get it wrong.

When we do mess up and misunderstand someone, what’s the fix? Two more words that are not very popular: “I’m sorry.”

It’s been said that “I’m sorry” may be two of the hardest words we can speak. Just as we like to win, the opposite side of the coin is more true: We hate to admit that we’ve lost, gotten it wrong and messed up.

Well, when you do get it wrong, welcome to the club. When we fall flat on our faces with those we appreciate and love, the most honest and perhaps intimate thing we can do is apologize. To be sure, an apology may not make everything OK, and very often does not stop consequences, but it can begin the rebuilding process.

It’s been said that if a child grows up in a perfect home, he or she will fail as a person. Why? Life is not perfect, and they will be unprepared for an imperfect world. The messy part of life is a normal piece of it.

Teaching our children how to learn from one another and how to apologize when they get it wrong is the real stuff of life.

“Grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.” –St. Francis of Assisi

– The Rev. Ronald Oliver, Ph.D., BCC
System Vice President
Mission & Outreach


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