I think I am pretty good at saying I’m sorry. I wasn’t always good at it. In fact, it was a terrible weakness for most of my life. Until I learned how, it was probably my biggest personality flaw. Even if I KNEW I was wrong and wanted with everything in me to apologize, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
It would weigh on me like a thick, heavy blanket; but I would be unable to open my mouth. I would choke on my words before letting them escape my lips. To this day, I don’t know why. I can sit and think about it. I can recall the feelings, but I can’t figure out what I was so afraid of. And afraid is what I was. I was terrified. I can remember the internal struggle. “Just DO IT! Now! Spit it out!” I would tell myself. Trying to muster the courage, like I was jumping into cold water. But I was too damn stubborn, and the little girl inside me would stand, feet planted, arms crossed, mouth shut as tight as a vice. “Nope! I won’t. You can’t make me!” She would shout back with fire in her eyes.
Then, one day, I was given a gift.
My son was about 12 years old. Headstrong and stubborn, just like his Mama. I can’t remember what we were arguing about, but it got rather heated. We both got pretty worked up, saying things we didn’t really mean and using words and tones we wouldn’t use if we were in control of our emotions. Voices rose and tempers flared. The argument ended as those kinds almost always did; both of us screaming our last few jabs at each other and someone storming away. This time, it was him who chose to walk away, pounding up the stairs and slamming his bedroom door. I sat slumped at the bottom of the stairs and rested my head in my hands. I knew I had lost my cool. I was the grown-up. As Mom, I should have controlled my emotions better. What kind of example was I being? What was I teaching him? If I had done better, this whole thing could have ended much differently, or not even happened at all.
I felt terrible for screaming at him. I did not mean whatever ugly things I had said. I love that boy with all of my heart and soul and did not want him to feel unimportant, unappreciated, unloved or unsafe. I do not want him to think for even a half a second that I dislike him, distrust him, am angry at him or that I hold any unforgiveness in my heart for him.
I sat there, having that familiar stubborn argument with myself in my head. “Go. Tell him you are sorry. Hug him and let him know that no matter how much you disagree you will always love and support him. Tell him that no action, thought or opinion he has could EVER change the way you feel about him” my heart tells me.
Scared little me says “No! I can’t!” Eyes wild with fear, she says “Please! Please? Please don’t make me….”
This time did feel different. My love for my son was compelling me to move! My love was overcoming my fear. I was going to do it! Scared me was still quite literally frozen in fear, but I knew I had to. Mom me had made up her mind. Scared me dug her heels into the ground as deep as she could, leaning back, pulling with all her might. I was in a tug-o-war battle with myself.
Then it happened. My cherished 12-year-old champion came walking down the stairs. There I sat, in the same pathetic place, exhausted from my imaginary battle. I can see it in my mind even now. He was shirtless, wearing basketball shorts. His flawless boy skin as beautiful as anything I had ever seen. His brown skater hair in all these soft half-curls around his face. His eyes. His eyes so big and round and full of forgiveness. The softest brown forgiveness there ever was. Before he could speak a word, I knew exactly what his heart was saying. His eyes spoke directly to my soul. “I’m sorry Mom” he said.
That was the moment that changed my life. I would never be the same, thank God. I knew without a doubt that if my son could humble himself enough to do it; so could I. He deserved it. We sat side by side on the stairs and talked calmly about what had gone wrong, how sorry we were for our words and letting our emotions get the best of us. We hugged and accepted each other’s apologies, but I had one last thing to say.
I told him how proud I was of him for being the first to apologize. I explained that I knew it was not an easy thing to do and that I had failed while he had succeeded. I confessed how badly I wanted to be as brave as he was.
I can’t say it was an easy transition. I would be lying. But I was so determined. It got easier as time went on and I had more and more opportunities. I am proud of how far I have come.
My son is now a 23-year-old young man. Today, he still inspires me to be a better person. Aside from God Himself, I consider my son to be the most influential force in my life. The ability to say I am sorry is one of the most important lessons I have ever learned. It is the most precious gift I have ever received.
Thank you, son.