Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

A lesson in emotional intelligence–from the critters

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

I built a little pond on my plot at my community garden last year. I’ve put a lot of loving work into it, gathering and arranging rocks, purchasing a bubbling solar fountain, and nudging plants to life around its perimeter. I collected cattails from a nearby stream and replanted them along with a few lily pads and other water plants. One of my neighbors even put fish in it which we both feed.

So you can imagine my frustration arriving every day to discover the rocks have been thrown in, plants are torn up and knocked over, and the pump is disassembled in pieces at the bottom of the pond. The foam pump float has been ripped apart, full of tiny fingernail imprints. Grrr! Who would do this?!

My garden neighbors have a wild child whom I caught several times last year playing in my pond, throwing rocks, trampling plants, etc. The parents would yell at him to get out but he paid them no mind. So my assumption–of course–was to blame this hellion for the daily destruction. I know it’s a small thing in the big scheme of life, but I found myself getting really cranky that these parents would not discipline their child enough to keep him out of other people’s stuff! All the ‘facts’ matched up: he is an unruly kid and needs to stop.

Just when I had developed a real attitude about the poor little kid (and his parents), I read an article about the damage that raccoons can do to a garden pond. Raccoons! And as I started looking a little closer at all the signs, I see now that it is obviously one of these masked critters who is the culprit and not the little boy! Especially because the parents assured me (yes, I spoke with them) they haven’t even brought him to the garden this summer! Here I spent a few stressful weeks dissing on these parents and the kid, in my mind, and even talked to the garden manager about it, in my ‘kindhearted righteousness’. So imagine my chagrin at the realization.

Which got me thinking…

Sometimes we make negative judgments of people when we really don’t have all the facts. We think we do. But we don’t. We create a story in our mind based upon our views and outlooks and determine it is the truth…when it’s just not. It’s easy to do. And it’s hurtful. And wrong. And it’s a good way to ruin relationships and assure our hearts will become bitter.

Have anyone you’re judging today based upon YOUR set of facts? Someone you KNOW is in the wrong, and has bad intentions…so you think. What if…what if you’re wrong? What if there’s a different perspective, some whys you might not be aware of, some facts you haven’t noticed, which are missing from the narrative you’ve so carefully crafted? I’d like to encourage you to learn from my mistake…and let’s all take a lesson from the critters. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. Quit pointing the finger. Accept that maybe your own closed mindedness may be the real ‘bad guy.’

I’ve got some apologizing to do.

Then I’m going to forgive myself.

Then I’m going to go water that garden.

Can you trust someone who’s been dishonest?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

“A single lie discovered is enough to create doubt in every truth expressed.” — Unknown

When trust is broken

There’s not much worse than catching someone you thought you trusted in a lie. Or several of them. You find you instantly go from believing in them to wondering if anything about your relationship is true. The damage seems irreversible and ending the friendship seems like the logical ‘next-step’–because how can you have a good relationship without trust?

The thing is, you can’t. As Stephen R. Covey said, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”

How do you know when someone can’t be trusted? Often, you’ll notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • They are unable to establish open, candid, trusting relationships.
  • They have developed a reputation for lacking integrity.
  • They get that ‘deer in the headlights’ look when you ask them what values they stand for.
  • They behave erratically, in ways that ‘don’t make sense’.
  • They treat people differently based upon the situation (they may be nice to you, but make fun of others, for example.)
  • They’re willing to undermine others for their own personal gain.
  • They withhold information if they think it may get them in trouble.

Once trust is broken, the safe nature of the relationship unfortunately shifts, and you’ll find yourself second-guessing everything that comes out of their mouth. It’s extremely hard to believe in someone who has looked you in the eyes and told you an untruth. As one anonymous quote about trust says, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”  Lady Gaga says it with a little more poignancy:  “Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that m…f…’s reflection” (pardon her French).

That being said, and this may come as a surprise–broken trust doesn’t mean the relationship has to end. Yes, there are times when someone has defiled your trust to the point you know you need to call it quits. This article is not designed for those of you who have been hurt over and over and over again by the same person, who obviously is not working to live in integrity and is bent on a life of cheating and deceit. And this is not about staying in a relationship with someone who is abusive or putting you or others in danger. This is written for the one-time offenders, or even the two and three timers (you get to determine the number), with whom you still see the value of continuing the relationship. In this case, healing the friendship will take some hard work–but it can be done. Taking the time to feel your feelings, lay aside judgments, understanding the whys, releasing the ‘all or nothing’ mentality, then meeting each other’s needs can help with the repairs.

Feel your feelings

Being lied to by someone you care about is a slap in the face. It stings. Your world that seemed safe just moments before now feels unstable and shaky. Depending on the depth of the lie, the sudden lack of trust can take the wind out of your sails and crush your dreams. Questions like, “How could she…?” and “How could he be so selfish?!” haunt us as we replay the situation over and over in our heads. Then we start to wonder if this was the first lie, and how long has this been going on? “Has anything she’s told me been real?” We begin to doubt the legitimacy of the entire relationship.

These feelings in response to dishonesty are normal. Anger-sadness-betrayal-pain-disbelief-chagrin-embarrassment-disappointment-discouragement– are normal responses. Find a safe place to sit with the emotions which are welling up inside you. Stuffing them inside, or, in a more passive-aggressive way, pretending you’re fine while making snarky comments will just prolong the agony. If you need to vent, grab a pen and write in your journal (not on your social media page!). Talk to a counselor. Seek out a close friend and ask them if you can unload for a bit. Cry. Scream. Yell. (Obviously, screaming and yelling in the office isn’t the ‘safest’ place to vent. Or, in the moment, screaming and yelling at the person who’s caused the hurt. Conversations done in anger never seem to work out very well).  Be emotionally-aware of your surroundings by finding an appropriate setting but do let yourself feel. I find writing down the emotions I’m feeling, being very specific as to how I name them, and noting why I’m feeling them, helps validate that what I am feeling is legit.

Good guys vs. bad guys

It’s tempting, in the moment, to write the person off as one of the ‘bad guys’. I wish it was that cut and dry. If people were only that black and white, being able to point your finger and labeling them ‘bad’ would seem to make the heartache a little lighter. But the truth is, all of us are dishonest at some point in our lives. If you’re really honest–no pun intended–you’ve most likely been dishonest in some shape or form in the last week–or even today! Stretching the truth, withholding vital information, or feigning agreement are all forms of dishonesty. Have you ever checked your social media pages on company time? Have you used the company printer for personal use? Have you allowed someone to give you credit for something that others may have had a greater hand in? A study done in 2010 found that the average person lies 1.65 time per day. That’s 11 and a half lies a week, or 46.2 lies per month! (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/homo-consumericus/201111/how-often-do-people-lie-in-their-daily-lives).

So, my point is we all exhibit some form of dishonesty from time to time, but just because you have been deceitful here and there doesn’t make you a bad person. Avoid the temptation to label the other person as one of the bad guys, unless you’re willing to include yourself in that category. People — all types — are at times honest and at other times dishonest. Does this justify lying as good and beneficial to relationships? Of course not. But it does humanize it and takes away the victim/villain mentality.

Rather than immediately adding the person to your list of evil people, instead, try to be open to discovering what value or unmet need was behind their dishonesty.

Discovering the why

Everything we do stems from a value or need. People say and act in harmony with things they deem as important. If we want to repair a broken relationship after dishonesty, it’s our role to attempt to quit focusing on the lie and take a deep dive into learning more about the other person’s values and needs. Again, this isn’t about justifying dishonesty. We are simply exploring the why behind it for greater understanding. This is a difficult step because we tend to be quick to assign motives (to match the story we’ve created in our heads) instead of seeking understanding. It takes good listening skills and requires us to suspend our own judgments–easier said than done.

For example, if someone has always been told they’re wrong, from a young age, a core value they may have developed as a result is a need to be right. Since they obviously can’t always be right, they may find themselves telling lies to make it look that way. Or, if someone’s core value is being loved, and they fear the other person may no longer love them if they fess up to a discretion, a lie may seem the best way to supply that need of being loved. Does this make the lie OK? No. But it can help you understand the why, and develop a little empathy. You don’t have to agree with their value–it may be different from yours–but you do want to offer respect. The goal here is to suspend our negative character judgment of them and see them with more empathetic eyes.

When you’re ready to find out the whys, wait until you are in a calm place, and you’ve processed your emotions. You’re going to need to be brave and ask open-ended questions to discover what the other person valued or needed so much in the moment that they chose to be dishonest. Sometimes the answers you hear may be a reflection of your own past behavior. For example, if you freaked out on your friend the last time she shared that spent a weekend with other friends (not including you), she may be a little more hesitant to tell you openly about the next time she does. As you ask, then listen, see if you can uncover the value which was most important to them in the moment. For example, maybe she valued your peace of mind more than being honest, knowing you’d be deeply hurt if you found out. Or, her need was to spend time nurturing other friendships, even if that meant excluding you — so she chose to lie.  You may be surprised that all lies don’t stem from a place of selfishness. Again, you don’t have to agree with the other person’s values/needs — but understanding and acknowledging them can go a long way with the repair.

It’s not all or nothing

We have a tendency to think because one act of dishonesty has taken place that the entire relationship has gone down the drain. While it may feel like that, the truth is that this person most likely still possesses all the wonderful qualities you saw in him/her before the lie. Take a moment to write down all the positive qualities you value about this person, to help put the untruth in perspective. One lie doesn’t negate all the truths they’ve told you in the past. Instead of allowing the dishonesty to taint your entire view of the relationship, relegate it to its proper place: it’s a lie that happened in that moment around a specific event. Magnifying it to include all interaction you’ve ever had together won’t help things.

And don’t let yourself become a fortune teller.  Just because they lied today doesn’t mean they’ll lie to you tomorrow. You’ve heard the phrase, “Once a liar, always a liar”.  But is that true for you?  Have you ever told a lie about something once that you vowed to never lie about again — and haven’t? People can grow and change. If the relationship is important to you, give them a chance to redeem themselves and move forward in honesty.

Meeting each other’s needs

Now comes the hard part. It’s one thing to understand the other person’s values and unmet needs, but making adjustments to meet those needs is another story. Their needs may trigger your insecurities. But if you value the relationship, and want to restore it, you’ll want to try not to take it personally, and attempt to create a safe space for open communication.

Once both parties’ needs are on the table, you then get to decide if 1-you want to meet their needs, and 2-if you are willing to meet their needs and 3-if you can meet their needs. If you don’t want to, then own it. Your friend say she needs time with other friends which doesn’t include you. Your need is to be included in everything she does. You may come to realize you don’t want to, aren’t willing, and can’t meet her needs, and she may decide the same for yours. Fair enough. Express this as kindly as you can, and decide if the friendship can continue despite these unmet needs. If not, this may be where you decide to part.

However, maybe there are partial needs that can be met, and visa-versa. How could you adjust your needs and she adjust hers to find a compromise for the sake of the relationship? What can you give and what can she give, and which needs can be modified, and how, without sacrificing who you are and what you value? If your friendship is worth it, there’ll be a lot of give and take as you come to a place of agreement. You’ll likely to have to give in and bend a little, and she’ll need to do the same. If the two of you are having troubles negotiating, enlisting the help of a coach or counselor may be productive in coming to workable terms.

“You must trust and believe in people, or life becomes impossible.” — Anton Chekhov

It’s your choice

Choosing to trust again is just that — your choice. English author Sophie Kinsella said, “In the end, you have to choose whether or not to trust someone.” I know, it’s not easy. It’s hard to know when to protect your heart from future hurt or forgive and allow them back in. Betrayal by someone close to you is one of the most painful things to endure, and for good reason, you may decide it’s best to be done. If that’s the case, put it to rest as kindly as possible, then begin to take steps to move forward as you craft a new life without them. But if you write off every single person who is dishonest with you, you’ll end up very alone.

Healthy relationships are vital to our wellbeing. If it’s a relationship worth salvaging, choosing to trust again may be the very thing needed to renew and restore the friendship. Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” It will take time and repetition of good behavior on their part to rebuild your trust. Giving others the opportunity to do that, by choosing to trust, is the only way to create the space for them to be trustworthy again.

“The chief lesson I have learned in a long life that is the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him.” –Henry L. Stimson

When Disappointment Hits

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  — Ancient Proverb

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

If you’re human, you’ve most likely experienced the feeling of let-down when something you hoped for didn’t work out. Maybe it was that perfect job you wanted but didn’t get, or that relationship that finally seemed like the right one yet fell apart, or an offer you made on your dream house which wasn’t accepted. Maybe it was the chagrin of watching your teammate get promoted instead of you. Whatever the reason for your disappointment, the feelings of despair that accompany it can wreak havoc on your soul.

Unfortunately, when disappointment hits, we tend to turn inward and allow our self-doubt to be triggered.  “What’s wrong with me? Why does this always happen to me? It’s because I am ____ (fill in the blank with your go-to negative quality)!” are just a few of the responses that may be going round and round in your head.

“There are some things in this world you rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you’ve carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand.” ― Sarah Dessen

Though disappointment can be difficult, there’s no reason to let it leave you disillusioned. If you’re in the middle of a heart-sick event, here are some things you can do to help with the healing process:

  • Feel what you’re feeling.  Instead of trying to stuff your emotions inside, or pretend you’re not hurt, allow yourself to feel. Name the emotions you are feeling and accept them as part of the process. It’s OK to let the tears flow. “Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance.” (https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/is-crying-good-for-you#1). So grab the box of tissues and open the floodgates!
  • Write it out. Grab your journal and write about what went down. Include as many details as possible, and as you describe what happened, use “I” statements, telling the story from your perspective. Describe the feelings it evoked. Can you make a connection to what you felt and why you felt it? Write about that, too. Sometimes just getting it all down on paper can help you make sense of the event.
  • Talk it out.  If appropriate (and safe!), and your feelings are in control, you may want to have a conversation with those involved in the offense. Lay your judgments aside and try to have an open mind to their viewpoint. Try to use “I” statements when talking about the event (“When you said this, I felt…”, etc.) and ask them questions for clarity. Avoid name calling, yelling, and finger-pointing. Remember the purpose of this conversation is to come to an understanding of both sides of the story.
  • Find a friend. Often it’s helpful to have someone outside of the situation to talk to about the upset. Find a trusted friend, counselor or coach, to discuss your feelings. If you can, try not to defame the other person(s) involved, instead, focusing on the role you played in the situation. Having someone else listen, nod, and say “I see why you’re feeling that way”, can bring much comfort and assurance that you’re OK.
  • But be careful with whom you talk to. It’s one thing to find a trusted friend or counselor for support, but be wary of sharing the story over and over with everyone you meet, opening up the opportunity to trample upon those involved. There’s no need to make the situation worse by spreading it around. You may think it makes the other person involved look bad, but it’s really a negative reflection on yourself. Posting about it on social media, especially before your heart is healed, is probably not a good idea, either.
  • Try not to ruminate. It’s easy to replay the scenario of disappointment over and over in your mind, which only will reproduce the negative feelings you’re working through. It happened. Once. No need to keep reliving the event if it’s not serving you well to go through it again and again. When you find yourself ‘going there’ in your mind, try moving your thoughts to something more uplifting.
  • Avoid always and never. When disappointment hits, it’s easy to think “this always happens to me”, or “this will never get resolved.” If you can, eliminate these two words from your vocabulary and recognize that this particular instance is a one-time event. Instead, focus on possible positive outcomes.
  • Don’t play the blame game. When we feel bad, blaming someone else for the incident can seem like an effective pain reliever. However, research says differently:  “Unlike other games, the more often you play the blame game, the more you lose.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201509/5-reasons-we-play-the-blame-game). This goes for yourself, too. Yes, own the role you played, but don’t go down the road of letting blame turn into shame.
  • Accept that it happened.  What’s done is done. Though you may wish you could roll back time and make it go away, accepting that it happened–and putting it in your past– will help you move forward. We all make mistakes — you do, others do, and we all are capable of hurting each other with our words and actions. Accepting that disappointment is a normal part of interacting with others can help relive the anger and resentment you may be feeling.
  • Choose your ending. Ask yourself, “How can this help me grow? What is one thing I can now do that I couldn’t before the incident? What did I learn and what will I not repeat? How can this have a positive effect on my empathy? In a perfect world, what would my next steps look like?” Though the event is probably not one you would’ve picked out for yourself, you can choose how the story ends.  Brainstorm all possible positive outcomes, and if you’re struggling to come up with any, ask a trusted friend for help. Sometimes those on the ‘outside’ can see the bigger picture and remind you of reasons why this may be a good thing in disguise.
  • Forgive — yourself and others. Easier said than done, I know, but deciding to move on will bring you the peace of mind you need and deserve. Forgiveness isn’t about pretending it didn’t happen, but letting go of the need to punish yourself or others for the wrongdoing. “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ― Alexander Pope

I get it. It’s tough to experience disappointment. But we can do hard things. And the rewards of working hard to move through and on past your disappointment will be well-received.

“Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger.”―Chetan Bhagat

Are you a trust builder or a trust breaker?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Are you someone who builds trust or someone who tears it down?

The ability to build trust is a competency of high emotional intelligence. Being trustworthy means to be ethical when working with and relating to others. It means doing the right thing even when you know no one will find out. When you are a trust builder, others have confidence that your actions are consistent with your words and know that you have their best interest at heart — not only your own. If you are a trust builder, you demonstrate respect for others’ experiences, understand the hurt that deceitfulness can cause, and bring more value to relationships than pain.

Those who are strong in this competency tend to share information about themselves and don’t keep secrets. They treat others consistently and with respect, and maintain high standards of personal integrity. They maintain a lifestyle that they don’t have to hide from others. When you hear them talk about something, you know that their actions will match up with their words, and you can count on them to deliver on their promises and commitments.

Those who aren’t so strong in this competency aren’t able to build open, candid, trusting relationships. They’ve most likely developed a reputation for lacking integrity, and often make promises that they do not keep.They will do what serves them best even if it means undermining another person to get what they want. They lie about little things, and lie about big things. If you ask them what their values are, you may get the ‘deer in the headlights’ look, as they often have troubles defining their standards in the name of being ‘open-minded’ or ‘non-judgmental’. They tend to blame others for their mistakes and withhold information to keep them out of ‘trouble.’

“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” –Seth Godin

It’s impossible to lead without being able to build trust.  When others begin to doubt you, they will think twice about following you and question whether or not you are worth teaming up with. They will mistrust your ideas and direction, and worry that you may be putting YOUR best interests before their own.

It’s true that it takes a long time to build trust but only an instant to destroy it.  One self-centered lie or act of deceit can ruin how others view you for days and months to come.

Why are some trust breakers? For many, the practice of deceit stems from deep-rooted fears…fear of being accepted, fear of being known, fear of punishment, fear of self, fear of being held to expectations, fear of letting others down, fear of being disliked, fear of being an disappointment…the list goes on and on. The thing is, we all have fears. We all want to be liked and accepted and valuable in others’ eyes.  But the difference between trust builders and trust breakers is that the trust builders face their fears by understanding that honesty and authenticity are what bring about those results, where trust breakers think dishonesty will get them there. But a life of deceit won’t bring about deep, meaningful relationships that we all desire.

“It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.”  — Zig Ziglar

Not sure if you’re a trust builder or a trust breaker?

Look over these statements, and give yourself a score for each, using this scale: 1= Always, 2=Almost always 3=Occasionally 4=Almost never 5=Never

  1. I share my thoughts, feelings and decision-making rationale.
  2. I am able to establish trusting relationships.
  3. I am open to others’ ideas and willing to be influenced by others.
  4. I treat people with respect.
  5. I am able to influence others as a result of talking with them.
  6. I have developed a reputation for integrity.
  7. I treat all people fairly.
  8. I say what I believe rather than what I think people want to hear.
  9. I strive to behave consistently with my expressed beliefs and values.
  10. I practice what I preach.
  11. I focus on solving problems rather than blaming or hiding.
  12. I admit my mistakes.
  13. I deliver on promises and commitments.
  14. I ask others for their opinions.
  15. I listen to people’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and am able to feel empathy.
  16. I solicit feedback about my performance.
  17. I acknowledge the contributions and worth of others.
  18. When there is a problem, I work directly with those involved to resolve it.
  19. I treat people consistently.
  20. I follow through on the things I commit to do, even if it’s not convenient for me.

Now, add up your scores and see where you land, below:

1-20 – Your ability to build trust is high

21-40 – Your ability to build trust is moderately high

41-60 – Your ability to build trust is moderate

61-80 – Your ability to build trust has room for improvement

81-100 –  Your ability to build trust needs serious improvement

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” –Stephen R. Covey

If your ability to build trust needs some work, take heart. We are talking about behavior–what you do, not who you are. Behaviors can be changed. If you would like to shift from being a trust breaker to a trust builder, here are some developmental tips to try:

  • Team up with an emotional intelligence coach to help you set goals and hold you accountable as you begin this journey.
  • Practice listening to others in a way that allows you to know what’s on their minds and in their hearts.
  • Always deliver on your commitments.  No excuses. If you are one who tends to promise then cancel –stop making the promises in the first place.
  • Be emotionally available to those around you — share the things in your heart without stretching the truth to make yourself look good.
  • Never knowingly mislead or lie.  If you catch yourself doing it — stop and admit the truth.  It’s so very freeing and you’ll find people respect you when you admit it in the moment.
  • Articulate your values to those around you and ask them if your actions match up.
  • Admit your mistakes without blame or shame.
  • Get in the habit of putting others’ needs in front of your own.
  • Check to see if what you do in secret matches up to your public persona — if not, in which arena are you not being true? Then ask yourself why.  Just being aware of the gap is a good start to changing behaviors.
  • Forgive yourself of past mistakes.  If you’ve spent a lifetime lying, it’s never too late to come clean and make a fresh start.

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re not sure if you should be honest or not — keep this in mind:

“For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” — Bo Bennett

Putting aside your patterns of lying, deceiving and hiding, and stepping into the brave new world of integrity will open up the doors of opportunity for stronger, healthier relationships. Yes, it’s going to take some work and effort. It may feel uncomfortable to begin to let others truly know you. You may face rejection and at times, disappoint people. But though it’s can be a difficult process to shift behaviors, it’s worth it. Becoming someone others can trust will help you develop the connection, both at work and in your personal life, that you need and desire.

The perfect gift

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

In many countries, ’tis the season for finding the perfect gift for your friends and loved ones.  It truly can be a special time of thoughtfulness and giving.

But just to mix things up, I’d like to challenge you to give a unique gift this year… one that has a great kick-back incentive. It’s not a store-bought gift or one you order online, but one that comes from your social intelligence — the ability to be aware of those around you and manage your relationship with them. This gift is empathy.

Empathy is a competency of emotional intelligence and one which can be easier to offer to some than others. Empathy is not only sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, but it is showing an active interest in their concerns.

For those we care about and love, showing empathy comes easy.  When a friend is in trouble, we hurt with them and want to do what we can to help out.  But have you tried showing empathy toward those who have disappointed you or let you down?  Easier said than done.

There is no magic formula to doing this. Offering the gift of empathy toward those who are not on your “Nice” list is difficult. We naturally tend to withhold kindness toward those who’ve been hurtful and even can find a sense of twisted satisfaction when we choose to not forgive their wrongdoing toward us. But we all know it’s us who suffers most when we choose anger and resentment. And opting not to forgive someone, to not put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand the why behind their behavior, instead skipping down the path of resentment, damages our own well-being.  In an article published by John Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Karen Swartz, M.D. at John Hopkins Hospital says this: “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and  immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.”  (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it)

Dr. Swartz goes on to say, in contrast, “Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” Anger toward someone who’s been hurtful is normal.  It’s just not a place you want to hang out for long.

Who are you holding a grudge toward or harboring anger toward?  I’m guessing someone’s name came quickly to mind. Try writing down that name on a piece of paper and, for a moment, attempt to lay aside their hurtful behavior. List out all the positive things about them you can come up with. (There’s no need to write down the hurtful behavior — no doubt you’ve replayed that in your mind countless times!) Your list of positives might be short. That’s OK. But looking at their whole person instead of focusing only on the hurtful behavior can help shift your perspective, even if just a bit. Then write down what you know of their current situation — what are they going through? Are they lonely? Are they depressed? Are they scared, worried, or trying hard to impress others? Are they financially burdened or seem full of themselves? Are they struggling with insecurity? Most of our poor behaviors occur when we’re not in a good space.  Attempting to understand their situation and offer a little understanding can have tremendous power over the anger in your heart.

“As human beings, we all have reasons for our behavior. There may be people who have certain physiological issues that dictate why they make certain choices. On the whole, though, I think we’re dictated by our structure, our past, our environment, our culture. So once you understand the patterns that shape a person, how can you not find sympathy?” — Forest Whitaker

To begin to heal, you may need to have a conversation with this person to let the know the pain they’ve caused. You may need to journal about it, talk with a friend, work with a coach, or see a counselor to sort things out. Whichever action you need to take to put this behind you and move on, do it. Every minute you hang on to  resentment and anger is one more minute you are robbing yourself from living a full life.

You don’t have to become best friends with the person.  In fact, in situations of severe hurt, it may be best to not have contact with them if possible. But whatever your ongoing relationship with them may be, there’s no need to keep replaying their destructive behavior over and over in your mind.  Why relive something so pain-filled? It happened. Past tense. No need to keep bringing it into your present. Offering a little empathy — not in any way justifying what they did — by attempting to understand why they did it, can help you begin to move forward again.

Offering the gift of empathy doesn’t make light of the pain, nor does it give license for the person to continue to inflict damage upon you.  Forgiving someone doesn’t tell them what they did was OK. It tells them that you’re not going to punish them (and yourself) any longer for something in the past. It can free you from the hurt and enable you to move forward again…with or without them.  In fact, offering someone empathy isn’t really for them — it’s a gift of love to yourself.  Yes, your empathetic behavior may bring about a shift in that person’s mindset–but that’s not your concern. Your emotions and behaviors are the only ones you can truly manage. Think of empathy as a gift you give to others which comes with an incredible kickback incentive — healing for your heart.

Empathy is probably the most perfect gift you’ll find this season. And I promise, it’s a gift you’ll never want to return. Why not give it a try?

A time to let go

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

Do you have someone in your life you’re not speaking to? That one you haven’t forgiven, or let go of the hurt they inflicted? The one that said the mean, hateful words behind your back, or who fired you without cause, or who offended you by their selfish actions? Broken relationships sit in our stomach like a sick pit and can leave us handcuffed to some pretty ugly emotions.  Listen, the pain you’re feeling — it’s valid. The hurt that comes from a friend is probably one of the worst. And the feelings that accompany that hurt are no fun to deal with — loss of appetite, listlessness, depressed, sad…you probably have your own set of feelings you can add to the list.

And while we can’t fix all relationships that end…we can choose to forgive the hurt and let it go.

Is it time to let that someone in your life off the hook?

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ”  — Carrie Fisher

For some, the word forgive has religious overtones, and reminds us of a nicety we learned in Sunday School. “Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” But the word simply means to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.  Simple, right? Just stop feeling angry and resentful. Easier said than done, I know. I mean, they hurt you.  It was uncalled for. Out of the blue. Done in a very poor manner, in a way that may have embarrassed you, or in what felt like a personal attack on your personality or character.  The natural reaction is anger or resentment and that is completely normal. Our next step (and often a healthy next step) is to close off that friendship, at least for a time being, to reduce any chance of further hurt. This is a normal way to protect ourselves and a stage of the grieving process when a friendship is lost.

But how long you get to hang on to the hurt and resentment? Of course there is no formula, no time table, that works for everyone. The time it takes to heal and forgive is going to vary with each of us. But know this — the longer we hang onto the hurt and resentment, the more comfortable we get with those feelings, and the harder it is to let them go. It can easily become our new ‘safe place’, like a cozy blanket we curl up with on the couch. It is warm and comforting and keeps us insulated from the pain. But it also can keep us on the couch and prevent us from moving forward. You’ll know if you’re settling in with it. You’ll play back the situation where the hurt happened over, and over, and over again. You’ll hear yourself talking about it to others — often. You’ll have pretend conversations with the person in your head, finally saying all the things you wish you could’ve said to them in the moment.  And then — you’ll do the same the next day. And the next. And the next. And I get it. Again — it hurt, and hurt, well, hurts! But the longer we wait to let something go,  the more comfortable it’s going to become, and the harder it can be to release those ugly feelings.  The thought of forgiving can be frightening. I mean, what would we do if we reconciled? Would we have to get our lives together and move on? Possibly stop using it as an excuse and take some steps down a new path? And what would we talk about to our friends at the holiday party?!

The process of forgiving would be so much easier if the person came to you first and said I’m sorry. Got down on their knees even and begged you to forgive them. Sent you flowers.  Wrote you a long letter telling you how they so much wish they could take it back. Gave you money. Bought you a vacation. Announced to the world how wrong they were and committed to being forever in your service. Sometimes that happens. But sometimes it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, do you carry the anger and resentment until they do? Or…is there a different choice?

“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” — Robert Brault

Change is hard. Forgiving someone is hard. Life is hard.  But we can do hard things.

Emotional intelligence allows us the ability to read how we’re feeling in the moment, and manage our behavior appropriately. Most likely you’re very aware you’re mad at this person. Pat yourself on the back — that is a good start and your emotional self-awareness is keen. But how is that behavior part going for you? How is holding on that anger and resentment working for you?

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”  — Shannon L. Alder

The holiday season is a time to connect with loved ones, new and old. It’s a time of celebration, and laughter, and joy. Carrying the pain of a past hurt only dampens the holiday cheer. What a better time than this season to make the choice to let something go? Of course there will be those who have made choices that deem them unhealthy to let back into your life. You’ll need to determine the level of connection you maintain with the person depending on the safety and health of that person. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean you now become best friends. But you can be free of the pain they caused. The choice to yours–to forgive, and be free.

It’s a tough thing to do, but the freedom you’ll feel on the other side will be worth it.  Is it time to give it a try?

I hope you do.  And if not now — maybe soon. Either way — at some point give yourself this precious gift of freedom. It’ll be the best gift you’ve ever received!

Wishing you the happiest of holidays.

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