Two Words

I lost weight today.  No, not the kind of weight that will make the bathroom scale’s result lower than it was when I stepped on it yesterday.  The weight I lost today wouldn’t move that reading even an ounce.

In our lifespan, we have quit talking about burdens, haven’t we?  We don’t live in a day when we like to think about guilt, or responsibility, or even concern for offense.  Somehow, it seems that we almost believe that all of the gadgets and labor-saving devices we have at our fingertips can keep us from feeling the consequences of bad choices, or harsh words, or thoughtless actions.

I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one left that feels it, but I know better.  For my part, it happens mostly when I’m alone and frequently late at night, but I feel the weight of my past actions.  Oh, I don’t mean I feel it in a manner that worries about redemption or salvation.  I know who is responsible for that, and I’m confident that it isn’t I.  Grace has carried the eternal consequences for those actions as far as the east is from the west.  And that’s far enough for me.

No, I think about the human cost of my past indiscretions.  I know there is a crowd of damaged people lining the road I’ve walked in my life.  Their faces appear to me, unbidden and unexpectedly, reminding me of amends that need to be made.  Many, I will never see again, except in those moments.  That doesn’t stop their appearance in the occasional mental tableaux.

He walked into my music store today.  The handy little cataloging system at work in my brain went into alarm mode instantly.

“It’s him!”

I felt like I was in one of those cartoons.  You know.  The cartoons where the character has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.  The angel had spoken first.

The little demon stood there stoically.  “So what?”

The angel shouted from the other shoulder, “So what??  You know, so what!  It has to be done.  You may never get another chance again.”

The devil sneered, “What difference does it make?  He never spent that much money in here anyway.  Who cares if he never comes in again?  Keep your mouth shut.”

The man, unaware of the little drama playing out in my head, asked me about a mutual friend.  It was the sole purpose of his visit.  He wouldn’t have darkened the door of my business establishment for any other reason.  I gave him all the information he required and he turned to go.

Last chance.

I forced the words out quickly.  I said just two words to him.  They stopped him in his tracks.  They are the most powerful words I know in the English language.  He didn’t move.  Perhaps it was the shock.

“I’m sorry.”

It was all I needed to say.  He turned to face me again.  Without any explanation on my part, he knew exactly what I was talking about.  He had a couple words to say, too.

I’m sorry.”

In July we had argued about a stupid little thing.  I got angry–he got angry.  He stalked out and I stood with my arms crossed, just daring him to turn and come back in.

Did I say July?  I meant a year ago last July.  I’ve seen his face in my mental diary of failures since then.  I even wrote about it shortly after the event with a final comment about it.  My words then?  “I have apologies to make.”

Until today, I had taken no action.  And I almost let him walk out again!

I cannot describe the sense of relief, of closure, that accompanies the lifting of the weight of guilt I have carried for my treatment of this man.  Again, I shudder as I realize that I almost missed my chance.

Two words.

They are easy to write here.  They are amazingly difficult to say to another person.  Surely, the red-headed woman who raised me was wrong when she described the word please as the “magic word.”

These are the magic words.

Of course, the memory of this day will fade by the next time I have occasion to say them.  I will fight this same fight with myself once more.

I trust that I will say the words anyway.

I’m sorry.

Practice makes perfect, you know.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.
(Romans 12:10 ~ NASB)

Play fair.  Don’t hit people.  Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.
(from “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten ~ Robert Fulghum ~ American Author)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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