There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. One day, his father gave him a bag of nails and a hammer. The father, then asked the son to hammer a nail into the back of the fence every time he lost his temper going forward. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger a bit, the number of nails hammered daily gradually started to dwindle down. Soon he discovered, it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper. He was thrilled to tell his father about it. As he shared this achievement, the father suggested that he now go ahead and pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.
The day passed and the young boy was finally able to remove all the nails from the fence. He was even more excited this time to share this new achievement with his father. As expected, the father was extremely pleased. He congratulated the son and told him how proud he was for this achievement.
However, the father, slowly led the boy to the fence and he said, “You have done well, my son. I am very proud of you for what you have achieved today. But look at the holes in the fence. They will remain there forever. The fence will never be the same.
Similarly, when you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.
You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. But, a verbal wound is as bad as a physical one. Friends and loved ones are a very rare jewel, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.
Water your relationships with kindness, and they will grow.
So be careful little lips what you say and you won’t chase friendships away.
Have you wounded someone lately?
Perhaps you have apologized but not wholeheartedly. Or maybe you owe an apology but are unsure of how to do this or what to say.
Believe it or not, there are important components to an apology that can turn the standard, “I’m sorry,” into a meaningful and honest atonement.
Aim for face-to-face. There’s nothing more sincere than someone looking you in the eye and offering an apology. If you can, meet your friend or loved one in person. Sit close, and depending on the type of relationship, put your hand on their shoulder or offer to hold their hand. Express empathy and remorse by making eye contact, using a lower-toned voice and allowing the other person to express their feelings.
Be specific about your error. The common phrases of “I’m sorry for what I did” or “I’m sorry if I hurt you” can technically be called apologies. But if you want your apology received better, be specific about what you did or did not do that warrants the apology. Saying, “I’m really sorry for not meeting you for lunch the other day,” tells the other person that you clearly understand what you did wrong.
Offer a repair. In some cases, this may not be possible. Other times, you can make amends by doing what you originally failed to do, or doing something kind, thoughtful or relevant for the person whom you have offended.
No “ifs” or “buts.” A genuine apology does not contain either of these words. For example, never say, “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings,” or “I apologize for being insensitive, but such-and-such happened earlier ...” Those words have the effect of rescinding the apology by either calling the injury into doubt or assigning true responsibility elsewhere.
Avoid repeating. An apology will lose all credibility and strength if the mistake is repeated. Apologizing to someone demonstrates not only that you are sorry about making a bad choice, but that you recognize the lesson in the mistake, which will help prevent you from making the same mistake again.
Until next time, be well.
Diane Bigler is a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Platte City with her family. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.