Revelations: What an apology will do
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 13, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 13, 2011 at 7:14 p.m.
At some point in my life, years ago, I became familiar with the gravity of apologies. Not receiving them, giving them. Perhaps I ponder them more seriously today because in my former life (BC = Before Christ), I wasn't always the best apology-giver. The apology model in my home growing up, unfortunately, was to ignore, protest and mock expression of guilt at all costs. Win the argument, buy gifts later, we learned.
It sounds humorous, but this model ill-prepared me for future relationships with friends, boyfriends, family members and others. As I entered high school - the genesis of adult relationship formation - I soon learned that my girlfriends weren't always so delighted with my overly domineering style of conflict resolution through debate and manipulation. Now, granted, I am female, and therefore recognize my abilities for debate and manipulation are embedded in my biology. But, as an adult and someone who now attempts to model their life after Christ, I was forced to embrace a softer style of apology-giving.
It wasn't one singular thing that led me to humbly examine the apology process, but I know it was God speaking to me, and answering my continual prayer to "Help me become less like myself, and more like Him."
The problem, I've found, is when the Lord reveals something to me, or convicts me of something, I know it may take years to take effect. So, while I'm much better at offering apologies these days, it isn't necessarily an easier process.
Last week, for example, my sister was in town visiting for the Christmas holidays, and we decided to see a late-night showing of "How Do You Know" at the multiplex. As we walked in the theater, energized about sister time, watching a cute chick-flick, and munching on buttery pop corn, we noticed how many open seats were still available.
We decided to sit about half-way down, and close to the stairs in case we wanted to slip out for more snacks.
As the movie rolled, a couple sitting in the row behind us became every movie-goers worst nightmare. They weren't whispering, they were having normal volume discussions throughout the entire movie, while crinkling plastic wrappers and slurping loudly through a straw.
The first few times, I glanced over at my sister and laughed. About an hour later, though, all I could think about was telling them off.
Once again, I glanced at my sister and asked "Should I say something to them?"
Before my sister could complete the sentence, "Yeah, if you want to ." I whipped my head back at them, and hostilely said, "Guys! Please stop talking!"
While the girl squinted her eyes in anger and leaned forward at me, the guy playfully shushed me and said, "I'm trying to watch the movie."
"Seriously," I said. "If you don't stop talking, I will have someone come in here and remove you."
I still don't know where my words came from. I don't talk to people that way, especially strangers.
Even my sister stared at me with confused horror.
For the remainder of the film, I sat in my chair feeling like a dumb, angry girl. I wanted the film to end, so I could apologize for speaking to them so angrily.
But when the credits rolled, my sister and I stared at the couple in silence as they exited the theater. I couldn't bring myself to apologize. I just didn't have the words. As my sister and I prepared to leave, I noticed the girl turn around on the stairs and walk towards me.
"She's going to punch me out," I thought.
But she didn't. Instead, she offered, of all things, an apology.
"I'm really sorry we were making noise, that's not like us," she said. "And, you know, we're Christians, and I just don't want you guys getting the wrong idea about who we are."
I immediately started laughing, and confessed to her that I wanted to apologize also.
"We're Christians, too," My sister added.
So I reached out and hugged the girl who gave me the evil stare in the movie theater and offered her a sincere apology.
When we stopped embracing and introducing everyone, my sister and I exited the theater in silence, grinning and laughing about the apology we'll never forget.
"I didn't see that coming," my sister said. "It's amazing what a little apology will do."
I haven't stopped thinking about that night at the movies, and how beautifully it illustrated the impact a heartfelt apology makes. It also showed me that even though I was expecting an entirely different outcome, you genuinely never know what someone will say until you apologize.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.