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The Power of the Apology

The Power of the Apology


A small word with huge potential but only if said 'in the right way’ - with meaning. Without meaning, the word is hollow and, as we all know, an empty gesture is worse than saying nothing at all. How many times have you felt let down, wronged by someone but if they had only said sorry (and meant it) you would have been able to move on? A family story illustrates this point rather well.

In their latter years, my two grandmothers lived in neighbouring apartments. They were very different personalities but being widows and neighbours, they forged a companionship, often popping over for cup of tea and a chat, or to borrow a cup of sugar, an egg - even a kitchen utensil.

Unfortunately, it was a kitchen utensil that put paid to their friendship. The story goes like this. Grandma H asked to borrow a potato peeler from Grandma R. Several months later Grandma R asked for its return. Grandma H said she had returned it. Grandma R said she hadn’t. The accused invited her accuser over to search for it. Not finding the potato peeler, Grandma R accused Grandma H of having lost the peeler, or worse, of having broken it and concealing the evidence. This accusation resulted in a heated argument and Grandma R stormed out never to return.

Grandma H truly believed she had returned the potato peeler and what did it matter anyway? It was just a potato peeler! She offered to buy a new one. Grandma R was furious. What an insult! The peeler had been a wedding gift and it was the best potato peeler she had ever used - they didn’t make them like this any more.

And so it went on year after year, the bitterness growing between them. It was sad to witness. I loved my grandmas and hated to see them fall out. Surely, their friendship was worth more than a kitchen utensil? I tried to reason with both of them – in caucus, they wouldn't agree to open sessions! Clearly, my latent mediation skills needed further work…..

It was only many years later, long after they had both died, (they lived to be 90 and 97 respectively) that I came to realise the potato peeler wasn’t the real issue at all. Well, of course it wasn't. It was merely a symbol of layered past grievances and misunderstandings. If only they had been able to acknowledge each other’s hurts and say the S-word, these two old ladies might have had a shared companionship well into their final years.

Sorry is a small word indeed but packs a powerful punch and its power should never be underestimated.

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