February 18, 2018
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. Mahatma Gandhi
How often have you lost someone important because you just couldn’t let go of the belief that they betrayed you in some way?
How many people have you sidelined because they didn’t live up to your expectations – your ‘shoulds’ of how people must behave in order to have your affection or respect?
How many people have left you on the side of the road for the same reason? Discarded, because of a belief that you should have been better, or more, or less of something.
I’ve experienced examples on both sides. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is.
Every time we discard someone, or are discarded, we lose something. A friend, a companion, a support, a potential learning, a new experience.
For that reason I put tremendous effort into understanding and reconciliation because it serves and expands me.
Maybe I’ll get some arguments about this, but I believe that with very, very few exceptions, everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. I also believe that the gift of being human is that we can learn and reason and grow beyond our wildest imaginings.
If I had known better, I promise you I wouldn’t have hurt your feelings, listened poorly, misunderstood you, said mean things, or ignored your needs to meet my own. And I believe the same is true of you.
Here’s how you can benefit from every resentment you’re still holding.
- Acknowledge that in all probability ‘they’ will never see what role they played in the problem. Forgive them anyway. Because they just didn’t know any better. (I’m not talking about situations involving cruel or violent treatment. That’s a different story.)
- Own your part. You always have a part. There is no possibility for a grudge or a resentment to develop without two people being involved. Owning may be as simple as acknowledging that you ignored behaviors that were unacceptable. That you didn’t ask for what you wanted or didn’t say what you needed to say. That you misunderstood, or stayed too long, or simply didn’t notice there was a problem because you were self-absorbed at the time. That’s your part. Own it. You didn’t know any better.
- Accept that you, like them, are profoundly imperfect. Basically good, well-intentioned, and loving. But imperfect. Accept imperfection. Because no one will arrive at perfection in this lifetime, When you think you have, that’s when you know you haven’t.
I met with a client and I wasn’t fully present. All she needed that day was a listening ear. Literally, that was all. And I just didn’t see it. She left the session angry. I struggled powerfully to find my part until I realized it was quite simple. I wasn’t present. Or at least, not present enough.
I have since gone through the steps above — acknowledging, owning and accepting — and have apologized.
From now on my sessions will start with making sure I know what they want from me that day. Because that can change week to week.
In essence, I will ask for their help.
That doesn’t eliminate my regret or change what happened. But it ensures that I won’t blame or hold a resentment toward that client. And it will reduce the likelihood that I’ll continue to make the same mistake.
Please do this:
Think of someone who remains a fly in your ointment.
Go through the three steps above.
See if you can give them a break. See if you can give yourself a break. These steps are an inside job. They don’t require an amends or a formal apology, although they may result in one. They are for you.
You forgive and take care of others for your own sake, as well as theirs. Forgiveness, toward yourself or others, can at times be your super power.