How is it that just when you think you’re brain couldn’t handle another thought, it derives something so deeply repressed that you are stunned when it appears to you in the form of a dream on a Wednesday morning?
It’s incredibly difficult to admit that you’ve done someone wrong. When you’ve hurt someone, you often move to the defensive- “Well, I wasn’t completely at fault. Look at what they did to me!” We try to justify how we acted, what we said or did, sometimes to others but always to ourselves.
And when we’re done lying to ourselves about who’s to blame, we often shove that memory or idea out of our minds. “It’s over, it’s behind me,” we reason to ourselves, “No need to dwell on it any longer- that’s just unhealthy!”
What’s unhealthy is excusing our actions, both past and present, in an attempt to delay the guilt.
What’s unhealthy is repressing the terrible things you did or said rather than admitting your responsibility.
What’s unhealthy is letting years slip by without reconciliation. Understanding. Humility. Honesty. And healing.
Since I am the biggest fan of breaking things down into lists, let’s map our journey to finding forgiveness and loving better.
Step 1: Admit to yourself that you were wrong
Nothing can happen until you complete this step. No more lying to yourself, no more excuses- admit and take responsibility for what happened, as well as the results of your actions.
Even if you’ve deeply repressed these memories, there is something also deep inside of you that will nudge you towards the truth, especially when you least expect it.
Step 2: Be humble
Like the new Kendrick Lamar song puts it perfectly- be humble. If you admit the truth about the hurtful situation to yourself, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get humble.
Still, this step is crucial because there’s absolutely no way you should approach the person you’ve wronged with any attitude other than humility. Believe me, you will ruin all chances you’ve had for forgiveness if you head into a situation where you once again are on the defensive.
This “humbling time” also allows you to figure out what you are going to say- you can accurately describe the situation, admit your part and the results of your actions, explain how sorry you are, and ask for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Step 3: Get honest and explain
Now comes time to put your plan into action, whether it’s through a letter, a phone call, or in person.
Sometimes it’s better to preface everything in written communication- this allows the person who has been offended to decide if they want to respond or hear more. It also gives them time to react and reason through the apology as they feel comfortable.
It’s crucial to remember that with this spirit of humility, you have to be ok if the person hears you out and does not want to grant forgiveness or decides to not reconcile your relationship.
Forgiveness is something we as the offender are asking to receive- we do not deserve it. We are not supposed to receive it just because we did our part to apologize and ask for it. If the offended does not want to forgive, that decision is their’s.
All we as the offenders can do is make peace with the fact that we are no longer lying to ourselves, and we did make an attempt for reconciliation.
Step 4: Move forward
No matter how the situation ends, once you have apologized and asked for forgiveness, you must move on. You cannot dwell on the situation, continuously reveling in guilt and shame. You cannot grow frustrated with the results (or lack thereof) of your discussion.
You must accept the situation as it unfolded, in a realistic manner: You made an error, you accepted your fault, you humbled yourself, apologized and asked for forgiveness, and the rest followed.
If reconciliation can occur you must be cautious to not reoffend this individual- especially in the same manner. All trust will be lost.
Step 5: Learn from your mistakes
The only good that can come from this situation is the experience you gain in the end. Take this unfortunate situation as a learning module for relationships.
Note things like: don’t say this offending thing, be quick to apologize and ask for forgiveness before too much damage has been done, be humble, be honest, admit that you are human and are prone to error- but never use this as an excuse for your actions.
You need to extend grace to yourself, too. Not in a “I’m human, I will obviously make mistakes and there’s no changing that” way. Rather in a “I am human, and I am so deeply sorry for the way I offended and hurt this person, so now I learn from my mistakes and must forgive myself” way.
Relationships are fluid; good and bad things will always occur when two or more people come to care for one another. Let’s be careful to preserve and love each other as best we can, each and every day.
Make love a priority- and like any other skill, become better and better at it each day you walk this earth.