(Pequot Pride – Part 2)
There’s something very powerful about a heart-felt apology. When exchanged, an apology marks the very moment when an invisible wall separating two people begins to crumble. It’s when the eyes meet, welling with hope in search of an unspoken answer. It’s when people begin to heal emotionally as mutual acceptance is extended, embraced and regained. It is often a point when tears are shed, and a sigh of relief is expressed. It is the embrace of one’s soul– a spiritual significance of love that offers gratitude and relief from torment or suffering.
When someone says he or she is sorry for what was done, we often find that a mutual apology is reciprocated for similar offenses. The act of apology marks the very point where healing and authentic unity begins. And when done correctly with heart-felt sympathy, an apology is the sincerest expression of humility in the spirit of reconciliation, and authenticates the value we each have for our relationships.
An apology is especially powerful when presented by those who hold positions of authority – when apologies are extended to those who have suffered under the wrong actions and decisions of that authority for a very long time. The President of the United States apologized to Native Americans for centuries of horrific abuse of power, destruction and corruption wielded against the first peoples of our nation. The Government of Australia took matters even further when they extended their apology to Aboriginal people for centuries of genocide and forced assimilation, which threatened the very foundation of Aboriginal cultures. They even added a national holiday dedicated to that continual remembrance, renewed appreciation and respect for their indigenous people. It’s called “National Sorry Day”.
November is our National Native American Heritage month. And now that we are nearing November’s end, I’d like to dedicate today’s post to Native American leaders – my own Mashantucket Pequot leaders in particular – as an appeal to take an unprecedented historic initiative in the midst of our own financial and organizational restructuring. An appeal to plan for the reconciliation and restoration of the very heart of our people.
Just imagine for a moment….what if the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council would choose to extend a formal heart-felt apology to the people of Mashantucket for every poor leadership decision that happened over the last two decades, and for the impacts those decisions had on each tribal household?
Not a half-hearted expression, with rolling eyes and a dismissive, annoyed attitude. Not flippantly and not with a barrage of excuses to justify what happened and why. No, I’m talking about a real, genuine apology given from the depths of the heart. What would that look like?
It doesn’t matter that those who are new to the tribal council were not “directly responsible” for the actions of leaders who came before them. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there….I didn’t do it….it’s not my problem. On the contrary, anyone who represents their people by holding a seat of government power does, in fact, represent that body of power without limitation.
Elected leaders are public servants. They represent ALL of the people – including our past leaders. Leaders are expected to take the first step in setting example and swallowing their own pride. Leaders are expected to embrace reconciliation by becoming the first of the reconcilers…extending an apology to all their constituents for wrong behaviors done on behalf of that leadership body.
President Barack Obama did not personally attack or destroy Native Americans. Yet, the President spoke forth a national government apology on behalf of the United States of America to all Native Americans simply because it was the right thing to do.
So what if the spirit of our people would begin to rekindle? What if hope would begin to restore? What if division would end? What if everyone would begin to extend mutual understanding and respect toward one another?
What if there was an apology:
- For a financial crisis that could have been prevented.
- For the times when our leaders rivaled one another and fought over everything from frivolous parking privileges to vindictive wrangling over major economic development projects – all at the expense of and detriment to the entire community.
- For manipulation through political patronage – requiring unequivocal allegiance from your people in exchange for higher paying jobs and more lucrative opportunities.
- For envy and jealousy – for not believing in the leadership potential and inherent abilities of so many gifted Pequots, and for fearing how the abilities of others might out-shine their own image.
- For preferring the favor, wisdom and counsel of ill-motived people at the expense of their own people.
- For not believing in their own people.
- For hiding important information, and for making critical decisions in secret.
- For the king-of-the-hill in-fighting – for conquering one another in order to gain power for themselves.
- For allowing the fear-based intimidation tactics wielded by past leaders in their desperation to control the community – for the unchallenged threats to “bring everyone down” or “If we take from one, we take from all.”
Too many people either initiated or allowed wrong things to happen for too many years, and pride was at the root of all of it. And those actions rendered the spirit of our people broken, sad, angry and anxious, as many now grasp for hope for future generations.
Destructive pride originates from two sources. The first source is the arrogant, power-tripping entitlement attitude that corrupts one’s mind when he or she becomes drunk on the combination of influential power, wealth, and narcissistic selfishness. The second source, however, is FEAR. For the insecure leader, pride becomes the shield to hide behind. It’s the fear of being seen as weak, incapable, or vulnerable in any way.
An apology is NOT an expression of weakness. On the contrary…it is evidence of incredible strength.
Never fear the reconciliation process. Don’t be afraid to stand up and extend an apology. For to truly apologize, it takes a strong, loving, warrior spirit. And doing so is evidence of true humility, setting a powerful example for many to follow.