Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Power of an Apology

It's often humbling to realize the power of an apology, a genuine apology, not one that is a matter of habit without true feeling behind it, but one that comes from the heart.

Just the other day I was driving out of my neighborhood, and nearly collided with another car at a t-intersection. I had the right of way, but as my mother always said "do you want to be right, or dead right?" I was able to brake hard and veer just enough to avoid a wreck. The driver of the other car pulled off to the side of the road and I hesitated a moment, not certain what the person was going to do next. I had my son with me and tried to remain cool, but I'll admit, I was irritated on the inside.

The driver side door of the other car opened, and a sweet little lady, probably in her 60s stepped out and rushed up to my window. She was so apologetic. She simply didn't see me. I can understand that; I think we all can. At some point in time or another when driving, we've all had a close call here or there. Not quite seeing that car in your blind spot when changing lanes or misjudging the speed of an oncoming car or looking past a stop sign or red light to the one ahead. It's scary, but it happens, and that's why they are called accidents. They are not intentional or malicious, but simply those moments in time where we blank out for just an instant, which is all it takes.

As soon as she reached my window and said how sorry she was my irritation melted away. She was genuine in her apology. And what really struck me was that in all the times I've been cut-off or had other drivers do something downright rude or stupid, never has anyone taken the time or made the effort to apologize like that. I have both given and received the 'oh my god, I'm so sorry hand wave,' which does a lot to diffuse a situation as well. However, her in person apology really touched me. I reassured her she need not worry, that no one got hurt, and everything was fine. When I pulled away I had a smile on my face.

I don't live in a large neighborhood, but large enough that the other driver was not someone I knew, but now I kind of wish I did. She was sweet and caring, the kind of pleasant neighbor anyone would desire. I'll keep my eye out for her now. I feel a batch of Christmas cookies coming on (giving, not receiving)!

Next time you think you may have offended or upset someone, whether you know them or not, remember the power of an apology. Maybe you will even make a new friend.


  1. That's a sweet story. But I'd hope she gets her license checked out. Maybe she shouldn't be driving. And in those cases, being nice does not matter because it could be a very nice sincere apology to the parents of a dead child that will come next. With that aside, I totally agree that being right is sometimes secondary to compassion and understanding. Great post and thanks for sharing.

  2. I think in this case it wasn't a situation of an older driver that should possibly not be driving, but truly just 'one of those things.' Most accidents occur within 3 miles of home, not only because that is where we do the bulk of our driving, but also because we are so familiar with the territory our minds often drift to other thoughts and we aren't 100% focused on the road.