Picture this: You’re at a gathering and you’re chatting it up, having a grand old time. As you glance over to the door, you see HIM walk in. Your eyes grow wide. You haven’t seen him in years. And the last time you did, things did not go well. Yikes, this could get uncomfortable.
Does a certain person come to mind as you imagine the scene above? Maybe an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend? An old friend? Past colleague? Boss?
Off the top of my head, I can think of four people I’d rather not see: two I REALLY don’t want to see and two with whom I could more easily navigate the awkward encounter. And while I haven’t seen any of them in years, the fact they came to mind tells me I have some relationship clutter to tend to.
Not only are these loose ends taking up precious energy that could be put to much better use elsewhere, but these people are also crowding the relationship seat in your life, getting in the way of deeper friendships, more loving romantic relationships, and healthier family dynamics.
This is clutter you probably didn’t even know you had. You’re welcome. 😉
This Valentine’s Day, how about giving yourself the gift of cleaning this up?
It’s all about forgiveness.
Rarely an easy task, forgiveness requires an open heart and an open mind.
And a willingness to hang out with some uncomfortable feelings.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean to simply drop it and move on. If you can do that, great! Go for it. If not, give this a shot (and I’ll be doing the same):
- Poke the bear. Revisit your grudge or your pain. What’s causing you anguish about it today? Be careful not to fall into the rabbit hole of rehashing what happened. Stay present and identify what bothers you about that person or situation now. This will tell you what really needs your attention.For me, what hurts now is how quickly this person threw away so many years of friendship; how disposable I was after us being close for so long. This is where I need to hang out to move past the situation. If I find myself stewing about what she did, I’m living in the past and that’s only going to keep me stuck. I know. It’s not pleasant.
- Switch places. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What might have been going on for them at the time? What could have prompted their behavior? You may have heard me share the saying I use when someone hurts me or pisses me off — “She’s not an asshole. She’s just wounded.” (In my mind, I sing it to the tune of “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” Whatever works, right?) Hurt people hurt people so if someone did you dirty, there’s a good chance they were operating from a place of pain. This understanding and compassion can help you to make a big move toward forgiveness.
- Turn the focus to you. If you were the main instigator or the sole cause of the painful exchange, what was going on for you at the time? What prompted you to behave that way? Consider why you acted the way you did, and it just might help you forgive yourself. One of my four who I would dread running into is a woman I hurt by making fun of her to a group. While this was 25+ years ago, I have carried shame and regret. When I turn a compassionate lens on myself, I can see what was behind my lower-consciousness behavior.I was getting to know some fellow teammates, and when I feel vulnerable, I default to being the jokester in hopes of being accepted and liked. Because others had some not-so-great opinions of this woman, my immature self thought it was an easy in with the crew.
Except I wrote my joke on a poster board that the woman saw.
I witnessed the pain in her eyes as her colleague addressed the comment with the group.
I didn’t step up back then and own it or apologize and I’ve carried that regret with me. Today, as I learn more and more about how to forgive myself, I can see that experience as a pivotal moment that has helped me be more mindful of my own pain so it doesn’t spill over onto others.
While this doesn’t make what I did ok, it does allow something good to come from it. After all, I wasn’t an asshole. I was just wounded. 😉
- Let it go. I know, I know, easier said than done, which is why I like to perform some sort of ritual to help make the release feel more tangible. You might write a journal entry about the experience and then burn it or shred it. State an intention as you do, maybe something like, “With love and compassion for all involved, I release, I release, I release.”
I think of something Nelson Mandela said as he was leaving prison:
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela
If Nelson Mandela can forgive his captors and torturers so he could truly be free, surely I can forgive, too.
And so can you.