If you’ve read all this, skip down to the parrots below.
When someone you love does something that hurts you emotionally, it’s quite common to find yourself caught between two opposing desires:
- Revenge – make ‘em pay for your hurt
- Forgive – and forget as quickly as possible to remove the pain.
Neither is great.
If you practice revenge you reinforce your own pain since (think about this) emotional pain arises from our story about an event – not the event itself.
If you rush to forgive, forget and avoid having an honest conversation with yourself and whoever hurt you, you practice being a coward in the face of your true experience.
A robust reconciliation, based upon an artful apology, avoids both these problems. In my work I’ve found there are five stages or “breaths” you need to take. Why “breaths”?
- When we are stressed it really helps to breathe: Keep breathing!
- There are in-breaths and out-breaths. To stay alive, you need both.
A reconciliation between 2 people that avoids revenge or victim-hood needs both these perspectives.
Breath 5 ~ FORGIVENESS
- you’ve heard your loved-one’s tale of woe;
- you’ve listened to all the dreadful feelings this incident evoked for them;
- you’ve shared a heartfelt “sorry!”
- you’ve taken ownership for your role in this affair
it can be terrifically liberating to seek some sort of forgiveness ritual.
Not everyone needs this. For many, the first four strategies bring about so much shared understanding and individual light-bulb moments that the need for forgiveness seems moot. However, as a child of Catholicism, I get the catharsis of penance! So – if it seems as though closure would be useful, try it.
“Fiona – I’m really glad we talked this through. I feel we know one another a bit more. Understand things we didn’t before. I’d love to feel this was really behind us though. Do you forgive me now? Is there anything else I need to do so you can let this go and we can move on, both feeling better?
- Forgive when you’re ready
- Check in with yourself.
- Can you let this go?
- Do you need some sort of final ritual?
“Yes. I’ve appreciated this too. I felt so hurt I thought it was the beginning of the end of us. But I see things much more clearly now. I feel I’ve un-muddled what was me and what was you – I’m ready to move on. So hummm, I’d say forgiveness will cost you a dinner for two at that new Thai place next week!”
This is the last of all five posts on The Art of Apologizing in Five Calming Breaths. Thanks for following this series. Let me know if you have another thorny issue you’d be interested in exploring with me.