I tried again to peel her fingers off the headrest in the car, but it wasn’t working. I shouldn’t have been surprised at her strength. Though she is tiny, she is bendy as a rubber band and nothing but skin and muscle. Today she had decided she wasn’t going to dance practice.

No matter that we were parked right outside the studio. No matter that her teammates were walking in past her, wondering at the commotion. No matter that she had resolutely decided that this year she was going to have perfect attendance.

It had been a calm season so far. Until today. Today her hair got in the way.

This self-reliant girl is particular about her hair. At eight years old, she has learned to do her ballet buns because she likes the way she does it best. But today, she took one last look in the mirror and then surmised her bun was too high. After she’d doused her do in hair spray.

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She’s competitive to the bone, determined to conquer every self-set challenge. But the things that are not her idea, she will resist with extraordinary stubbornness.

Tell her what she can’t do, and she will prove you wrong. But never tell her what to do. She will comply if, and only if, she thinks she thought of it first.

It wasn’t until hours after the storm that we could talk about real strength. A different kind of strength.

The strength of learning to apologize even when it’s the hardest thing in the world to do.

She’s an eight on the Enneagram in case you haven’t already guessed. She’s wired to overachieve. To push herself hard. To be the strong one. But showing weakness? Man, it’s tough for Enneagram eights.

But apologies heal.

They heal hearts that have been bruised or become callous.

They help us not take ourselves too seriously, or selfishly.

They build bridges instead of walls.

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Yesterday my daughter learned that letting down her teacher and her classmates is repaired with an apology. That of all the things we can learn to do well, apologizing is one of the most important ones. That it’s hard and holy, and it takes practice, but it’s the mark of true strength. 

And if I’m honest, it’s a lesson I’m still practicing too. Because it’s hard, even for adults, to swallow our pride and apologize.

To be the strong one even when we’re having a bad day.

To own our part and apologize first.

To choose to let our still-in-progress selves show.

Oh, the bad days will come. Bad hair days and the like.

But they don’t have to get the best of us.

Because the best days are the ones that grow us. Make us stronger. And better.

Twyla Franz

Twyla Franz loves to help imperfectly ready people take baby steps into neighborhood missional living. Check out her devotional, Cultivating a Missional Life: A 30-Day Devotional to Gently Help You Open Your Heart, Home, and Life to Your Neighbors, which includes group discussion questions for a 5-week study. Think you have nothing to offer your neighbors? Take her free quiz, “What Kind of Neighbor Are You?” to learn what makes you uniquely invaluable to your neighborhood.