It is a fact universally acknowledged that where there are many children there are many fights, sometimes accompanied by injuries and actual spilled milk. And children can pack an infinite amount of pride into deceptively small bodies (Eat your heart out, Mary Poppins). They have a wild individualistic streak that works to ensure that they are the victim in a conflict situation. Ask any kid who has ever done something wrong (so, like, every kid) and they will confirm that, yes, "sorry" IS the hardest word.
After refereeing one too many fights over whose turn it was to pick a movie (May I just pause to once again affirm the excellence of "Dumbo"?), my parents prescribed the following statement, to be uttered in humility by the offender and accepted with complete forgiveness by the offended:
"I'm sorry. [Pause for emphasis] I was wrong. [Pause for emphasis] Will you please forgive me?"
These words usually spilled out in one ugly landslide from our proud,
obstinate young lips. This apology was a box to check, not a sentiment springing from the heart. When faced with dented pride or "I'M GONNA GO TELL ON YOU!", dented pride was the lesser of two evils.
Apologies are still hard. They always will be, I guess. But I'm glad my parents tried, early on in our lives, to instill it in us as a habit, an essential ingredient in true reconciliation. They refused to let us think that anything was really solved by stomping off with a brisk, "Whatever," as my generation is so prone to do. Relationships are ultimately stronger when we have learned to admit guilt and hope for forgiveness; or, conversely, to forgive and remember guilt no more.