March 2, 2011

The Power of Apology

Day 61: 19.7 miles/1:11

“An apology may not fix everything right away, but it is the best place to start to repair a relationship.”

Brandon and I had coincidental experiences yesterday.  We weren’t together when it happened; yet, they probably occurred within an hour of each other.  Unexpectedly we both ran into someone that we had a conflict with and it was a conflict we each were accountable for creating and repairing.  While mine was argument related, Brandon’s was trust related.  As a result, I believe that the bridge building exercise on his part is going to take a lot more time.

Apologies have an interesting way of resonating in different manners.  Their effectiveness is often dependent upon the original sin and the contingent upon the sincerity and authenticity of the sender.  Regardless of the nature of the crime or the effectiveness of the action, the only way to begin to build a bridge in a relationship is to start with your accountability for its repair.

In the world of recovery, I believe that making amends is step nine.  Being accountable for your actions in a relationship can be a challenge for some. Being accountable means that you alone are responsible for your actions in that relationship.  You are not accountable for how others respond or react or take responsibility for their actions; however, making amends is totally up to you and it is unconditional.  You cannot apologize with the expectation or requirement that they accept or apologize back.  You can only own what you did and what actions you take to fix it.

As I stated earlier, I was in an entirely different situation than Brandon.  Last year I got into an unnecessary argument with someone.  It escalated to the point of a heated, near physical altercation.  When I ran into this person yesterday, while I didn’t know him, I recognized him immediately and knew that I was accountable for owning up for my actions.  I had some advantage in that this person did not recognize me so I was able to ease into the situation without any historical tension.  I was able to introduce myself, take ownership for my actions and move on.  There are no guarantees that I righted the wrong; but, I unconditionally took accountability for my actions.

On the other hand, Brandon had violated the trust of someone who had been a considerate and helpful resource for him.  His actions were significantly more hurtful and painful.  His apology was heard and not much more.  Again, Brandon can only own up to his responsibility and his actions.  He can offer to make amends when the other party is receptive to doing so.  However, all he can do is be accountable for his actions, understand and accept the scope of the pain, and be committed to fixing the relationship when the other party is ready.

The key to any situation involving relationships is our accountability for making them work.  Not all relationships work.  However, relationships have the greatest likelihood to grow and mature is when we demonstrate our commitment to them.  Our responsibility to those important and valued relationships is one of those key components.  When you mess it up — own it, acknowledge it, don’t repeat it and keep working on it.  The repair may not be instantaneous; but, the relationship has a chance because of your action to fixing it.

About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.