Apologizing Like a Man
When tempers calm and clarity returns.
The unclouded day was hot, and the humidity was such that it would squeeze the sweat out of you. Several soccer games went on at once. Parents and grandparents lined the sides of every field.
In this league, nearly everyone is a volunteer, including the referees. If anything, the heat was more oppressive for the refs. The one officiating my son’s game had been out there for almost four hours.
Some calls were missed. A nearby grandfather with silver-white hair started jawing off to the ref.
“Do your job!” the old man yelled.
The ref pulled out a red card. “You’re out of here. I don’t want to hear.”
The old man slammed his folding chair together and huffed away while those nearby, including the rest of his family, mumbled about seeing a red card so quickly.
The ref ran up and down the sidelines a few more times, sweat sloughing off of his face. During a timeout, he stopped in front of the old man’s family.
“Can you tell him I’m sorry? And next week, tell him to come find me so I can apologize in person for overreacting.” Then he ran off to keep officiating the game.
This ref did several things well:
He took responsibility for his actions. If anything, he bore the lesser fault. He was a volunteer for crying out loud. He had plenty of excuses. Getting yelled at by an old man in 100-degree weather, the sun flaying your skin, and when you’ve probably already been yelled at earlier in the day…anyone might overreact. But he didn’t use that as an excuse.
He stated what he did wrong in clear, direct language. He overreacted. That’s it. He didn’t try and make it seem less, nor did he try to make it seem worse. He stated it like it was.
He did it as soon as possible and tried to make peace in the best manner available to him at the moment. He couldn’t just walk away from the field and chase down the old man. He had other responsibilities. But he didn’t wait. He struck while his conscience was still barking at him and tried to ensure he could apologize in person.
I wasn’t privy to anything after that, but I like to think the old man apologized as well when met with such magnanimity.
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