I took a wonderful Class this Week given by Peter Robinson, Dean of the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University and Robert Benjamin from Portland, Oregon. Peter spoke about the role of Apology in Mediation. I was struck by the discordance between what most of us agree is “good” and what most of us agree is “right”. He offered the example of a child who throws a ball through the neighbors window. There, most of us would insist that our child go over to the neighbors, acknowledge his wrongdoing, offer to make reparations and ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, in a collision on the 405 Freeway, we would likely not consider offering to pay for the damages and asking for forgiveness on the scene, as this may wreak havoc with our insurance carrier’s official “policy”. I’ll share a moment of grace from this past week. Many years ago, my husband and I had a falling out with a lawfirm where I was subletting over a series of errors in a document they were preparing for his business. We refused to pay the bill, and I lost my office. This week, for the first time in about 6 years, that attorney (now turned mediator) took me out to lunch. He reached out to me, acknowledged that he never felt good about the way that was handled and asked for our forgiveness, or at least understanding. I don’t know whether it’s a metaphor or reality, but since I saw this gentleman last, he has gone for a PHd in Divinity and lost 140 pounds. So he’s been touched by grace and is substantially lighter than he was when last we saw one another. So the next time you stop to flog yourself over something you’ve done wrong–reach out to your assailed one, and apologize. It’s right and good…and you may even find yourself lighter and feeling better all the way around!
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