When I first learned what an apology was, I was outraged. “I will not say sorry for stealing her cookies,” I shouted right after snack time. The teacher looked down at me in disbelief. I was three and a half feet tall, but yards taller in ferocity. “She stole my crayon,” I whined in a half-squat. “But I don’t want her to say sorry to me.” The cookies were cinnamon-swirl, and sugar really brought out my idealism.
“It doesn’t matter what she did to you. You can’t just take other people’s cookies like that.”
“I hate you! Get away from me!”
“David,” she made a sinking motion with her hands. “You need to stop acting up. You’re making it no fun for everyone else. See?” She pointed to the other kids who were all either silently staring at me or unself-consciously exploring the insides of their pants. I was right, though. Wasn’t I? Becoming less certain, I fell down into a seated position and started crying, really letting it out. Now who was sorry?
The lesson I learned, and one that I believe has directed my every action since, is that apologies are usually much easier than trying to make principled points. Apologies are social band-aids, the verbal adhesive gauzes able to disinfect scraped feelings. The only things that distinguish modern society from barbarian anarchy.