As much as we might like our work as citizens to produce immediate results, sometimes it takes a very long time.
No story revealed this truth more poignantly lately than this one, appearing in The Oregonian, about a student and a teacher, reunited 39 years later because of a heartfelt apology. In short, the student had asked to be removed from the teacher's class because other students were teasing him about his status as teacher's pet, and further, intimating that this was all made much worse by the fact that the teacher was allegedly gay. The young man, rather than standing up for the teacher who he really did learn so much from, asked to be removed so as to avoid any further humiliation. The boy, now a man with a stronger sense of his own convictions and values, searched for his long lost teacher and, upon finding him, wrote a long letter of apology.
As the article itself says, "The beauty of an apology is that everyone wins because it reveals not only who we are, but who we hope we are."
It got me thinking about the role of accountability, apology, and forgiveness in our own public spaces and beloved communities. So much of the uncivil discourse in our political spaces is based on hurling words at one another, turning pain outward and projecting it on other people who are ideologically opposite--or at least perceived to be. But stories of real human interactions, suffering, and resilience transcend all of this polarized spitballing. When we reflect on our own behavior and apologize to those who we have hurt--even unintentionally--without our communities, we create a space for light to break in. Space for a real conversation. Space for renewal and healing.
Who is the person with your life--past or present--who deserves your apology?
Note: Courtney is the author of our Healing Democracy Action Circles guide. We hope you'll sign up to lead a circle! Learn more here, and be sure to follow along with us here on the blog, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter (@couragerenewal)