Monday, June 14, 2010

Lessons On Forgiveness

Something profound happened last week that exemplified what forgiveness means. And it happened, of all places, on a baseball field.

There were two outs in the ninth inning, and Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was ONE out away from pitching a perfect game (no hits, no walks, no runs). For all you non-baseball lovers (including my wife), this is HUGE. In the history of baseball, only 21 PITCHERS have ever had a perfect game. The rarity of a perfect game makes it baseball's crowning achievement.

Galarraga makes the pitch. The ball gets hit to the infield. It gets thrown to first base. The batter was clearly out. Galarraga had pitched a perfect game!

But then everything changed. Umpire Jim Joyce raised his arms and called the batter SAFE! And the perfect game went down the drain.

This is where the story gets interesting. This is where we start to learn lessons about courage and forgiveness. Some incredible things happened:

1) Galarraga didn't lose his temper. He didn't yell at the umpire. He didn't explode (which would have been more than justified and understandable.)

2) Joyce watched the replay after the game and realized the mistake he had made. But you know what? He didn't make excuses for what had happened. He felt terrible and owned up to the fact that he blew the game. He took total accountability. He went to the Tiger's locker room and apologized to Galarraga and gave him a hug.

3) And guess what? Galarraga forgave him. He forgave him! Galarraga said "He really feels bad. He probably feels more bad than me. Nobody is perfect. I give a lot of credit to that guy. [An apology] doesn't happen. He apologized. He feels really bad. Nobody is perfect. What am I gonna do? His eyes were watering and he didn't have to say much. His body language said a lot."

The lessons here are critical for all of my relationships. All of your relationships. We need to stop focusing on always being right. We need to own up when we make a mistake. We need to be humble and willing to apologize. Because when we do, relationships stay strong. It becomes easier to overlook weaknesses and mistakes. And we need to forgive others when we have been wronged.

Imagine how differently this story would have ended if Jim Joyce had stuck to his guns, not admitting he made a mistake, and not apologizing. I believe Galarraga would have been MUCH less likely to forgive. He would have remained full of anger and vengeance.

But instead, they were able to give each other a hug. I admire Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga. I hope I can be more like both of them.

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