Activated - - NEWS - By Sally Gar­cía Sally Gar­cía is an ed­u­ca­tor, mis­sion­ary, and mem­ber of the Fam­ily In­ter­na­tional in Chile.

For years I mon­i­tored chil­dren dur­ing re­cess and play­ground ac­tiv­i­ties. Be­tween all the run­ning, jump­ing, row­di­ness, and good­na­tured play, some­one would of­ten end up get­ting run into, tripped, shoved, etc.

Of­ten the child who had caused the ac­ci­dents would im­me­di­ately raise his or her hands and say, “It’s not my fault” or “I didn’t do it on pur­pose!” But of course, es­tab­lish­ing guilt wasn’t the im­me­di­ate pri­or­ity. The most im­por­tant is­sue is the wel­fare of the “in­jured” one.

I saw this scene play out so many times that I fi­nally re­al­ized that most of us have to learn em­pa­thy. It doesn’t come nat­u­rally. The chil­dren were con­fus­ing “I’m sorry” with an ad­mis­sion of guilt, and since they hadn’t harmed any­one on pur­pose, they didn’t feel the need to feel sorry for them. But in life, like on the play­ground, we some­times in­ad­ver­tently hurt some­one and need to apol­o­gize.

We may have rea­sons. Maybe we didn’t re­al­ize, we didn’t think things through, we didn’t con­sider the im­pli­ca­tions of our ac­tions. Maybe there were ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances, mis­un­der­stand­ings, oth­ers in­volved. Ev­ery story has at least two sides. The prob­lem is that when we say, “I’m sorry, but let me ex­plain...” we’re usu­ally turn­ing the fo­cus on our­selves in­stead of the one we’ve hurt. Then we be­come the vic­tim of a mis­un­der­stand­ing. It’s some­times help­ful to of­fer clar­i­fi­ca­tions if we can and give our side of the story. But first things first—did some­one get hurt? An apol­ogy spo­ken with sin­cer­ity con­tains a heal­ing balm.

Back to the play­ground. An­other les­son I learned from 35 years of work­ing with chil­dren—if we’re quick to apol­o­gize, the other side is usu­ally quick to for­give. That’s the best part.

Who cares who’s right or wrong when the last word is a kind apol­ogy? — Richelle E. Goodrich Apol­o­giz­ing does not al­ways mean that you are wrong and the other per­son is right. It just means that you value your re­la­tion­ship more than your ego. — Au­thor un­known An apol­ogy is the su­per­glue of life. It can re­pair just about any­thing. — Lynn John­ston (b. 1947) When an apol­ogy is due, give it freely, then fol­low your apol­ogy with ac­tion. — Judy Ford Apol­ogy is a lovely per­fume; it can trans­form the clum­si­est mo­ment into a gra­cious gift. — Mar­garet Lee Run­beck (1905–1956)

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