Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 9/16/2010 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - The Lesson of an Apology

Martha's Big Adventure -- The Lesson of an Apology

By Martha Randolph Carr

Imagine if we all found it easier to just say we're sorry. We wouldn't pick and choose those offenses that we thought were bigger than what someone else had done to us. There wouldn't be some kind of deal making going on first to determine if our apology would be accepted. We wouldn't survey our friends to see who agreed with us. We wouldn't even bark out the words and then try to quickly change the subject.

Those items on the list that we know were wrong but might cost us more than we care to lose would stay on the list. The only exceptions would be if we were trying to apologize to make ourselves feel better and would somehow hurt whoever we had wronged, whatever the size of our offense. Those people we'd leave in peace and find someone else to tell such as a trusted friend, a counselor or a spiritual advisor.

In those instances, we'd do our best to change our ways and show up differently. That means we wouldn't walk in the room wondering what was in it for us or make excuses about why we didn't want to do something. We wouldn't refuse to pick up a wet towel because it wasn't our wet towel and we'd just do the dishes even if we'd done them for years without anyone even noticing our service.

We'd stop thinking it was all about us and trust that it never needed to be.

We'd show up in person to say we're sorry and not take an easier way out by emailing or texting or leaving a tweet. We'd even ask at the end if there was anything else that we'd inadvertently left out and then keep quiet and let the other person talk.

Our intentions would be to take our part of the responsibility even if it only added up to two percent of the mistake and we'd leave the other ninety-eight percent alone. Not a word about it. We wouldn't even ask the person ahead of time if they thought there was something that we'd done that needed an apology.

We're all grownups and have a good idea of when we stepped in it. The responsibility for our actions would fall on us and we'd accept it, own up to it and say we're sorry. We were wrong.

That doesn't happen very often in the real world.

In order to be so open to admitting acting like a bonehead or worse it first takes having a solid foundation of self worth beneath us. We have to be able to clearly see the difference between our actions and ourselves as human beings.

Or we at least have to be willing to try and find out if it's true. That is the definition of faith at work. We go first and believe that God will meet us.

There's a new little book, The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett, that tells the short story of two sixth grade boys learning the value of compassion and forgiveness. The book can be used as a primer for anyone who has no idea how to start finding grace in their relationships.

It's a simple story that has real poignancy and offers a perspective that isn't often given in tales about forgiveness. The boy who knows he needs to forgive has the humility in the end to understand what he was missing out on when had to be right. Sometimes we can get so focused on the drama we forget there's an entire human being just behind the anger.

But it can be a big leap to go first.

I've had to do some whoppers for hurtful things I've said or done and for most of them I started out hoping that inner voice would just shut up and I'd be able to finally feel good about cleverly wounding someone. That never worked though and over time I had to find peace with what I'd done and then what I had to do next. That's when I knew I was ready to admit my part in things, say I was sorry and become accountable again.

It's a much easier way to live and the real payoff is not only peace of mind but knowing that I can go anywhere in the world without worrying about who I might run into and what we'd say to each other. More adventures to follow.

Martha's latest book is the memoir, A Place to Call Home. Email Martha at:

© 2010 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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