I’m feeling a little sappy this morning, I admit. I spent the weekend with my friend Tracy in North Carolina, who substitute road managed me while my friend Ben was on vacation. I missed Ben but we caught up this morning via e-mail. I spent yesterday hanging out doing a bunch of nothing with my wife/friend. I spent yesterday evening, like most Summer evenings, sitting in a lawn chair talking with my best friends.
My cup is full. I’ve got an abundance of friendships. Like I said, a little sappy.
Reflecting on these friendships a little this morning, it struck me how simple the secret to these successful relationships might just be. There are two things the best friends I’ve had say easily.
Billy Patterson, a mentor of mine who taught me how to be a good husband, told me several times to keep short accounts. As the bible says, don’t let the sun go down on your anger – don’t let the day end with an outstanding balance in any relationship.
Go to your brother, sister, wife, parent, co-worker, and ‘fess up. Say the hardest words there are: “I’m sorry.” And mean them. Own them.
Not “I’m sorry you’re hurt” or “I’m sorry you see it that way.”
I have to make it about me. And keep it about me. “I’m sorry I did…” “I’m sorry I said…”
And leave it at that. I have to do the nearly impossible (for me): to shut up and leave my but out of it. “…but I only said that because…” “…but I was only kidding…” “…but you…” Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
An apology is not a boomerang – it may not come back your way. We say we’re sorry because we’re sorry. Not because we want to hear those words said to us.
This world isn’t exactly overflowing with kindness. It has its moments though. And those moments are miracles that need our attention.
Saying “thank you” makes those miracles last a little longer in everyone’s memory. Thank you shines a spotlight, makes a news flash out of the good we’ve witnessed.
Thank you says “Hey, everybody, check out this amazing thing over here!” And we all stop and spend a second or two in awe. And the good gets stretched. If we all said “thank you” when the good moments came our way, we’d notice how much good is actually in our day. And that’s a good start on happiness.
As G.K. Chesterton wrote: I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
Thank you is especially important in healthy friendships. Thank you says I notice.
Be specific. Avoid superlatives and comparisons to others.
“Thank you for picking me up. I know it was out of your way.”
“Thanks for being such a good listener today and telling me the stuff I don’t want to hear but need to.”
“Thanks for being such a great mom to our kids, for being patient and repeating yourself a million times without yelling, for cooking healthy stuff for them to eat, for teaching them how to work through that fight this morning.”
Go say you’re sorry. And tell us, who are you thankful for?