When you hurt someone you love and you’re seeking forgiveness, be sure to look in the right places.
When I hit send I knew I was going to ruffle some serious feathers but I definitely wasn’t ready for the storm that followed. “F.U. and F.U. again,” she wrote. My cheeks began to burn. I felt as if I’d been slapped across the face. “Let down and thinking so much less of you,” she continued.
When I wrote that email my intentions were pure. I had simply wanted her to show our mutual friend a bit more kindness. But I had also been judgemental and nobody likes to be judged.
Sure, if I could turn back the clock I wouldn’t have said some of the things I said. But then, if I could turn back the clock I wouldn’t have quit high school six months before graduating, or married my first husband, or eaten that third bowl of ice cream last night.
But I’m human. I make mistakes. So I did all that remained within my power. I held myself accountable and apologized.
It took a few weeks but I sent her an authentic apology. “I am sorry. I have judged you. I have no excuses,” I wrote. But it wasn’t enough. She continues to admonish me and has yet to open even the tiniest crack through which I might be able to slither back into her life.
Last night, I turned to Brené Brown for comfort
While devouring a few pages of her best-selling book Rising Strong, I discovered this gem. (She was quoting a former professor of hers.)
“What is the most generous assumption you can make about this person’s intentions or what this person said?”
In the face of my friend’s upset and many insult-laden rebuttals, my most generous assumption has been that she is responding from a place of hurt and anger; that her intentions were to protect herself, not hurt me. That she wasn’t a bad person; just a wounded one.
A few pages on, I read this:
“Living BIG is saying: “Yes, I’m going to be generous in my assumptions and intentions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable.”
Standing in my integrity, I realized that even if I have made a mistake – even if my friend is coming from a wounded place, not an evil one – I am not required to lie down like a doormat and allow her to wipe dirt all over me.
Why can we be so quick to forgive others, yet so slow to forgive ourselves?
For some time now, I’ve envisioned coming face-to-face with my friend and assuming the role of doormat if that’s what she needs me to do. Thanks to Brené, though, I’ve let that vision go. Because nobody deserves to be treated that way. Ever. Not even me.
Yes, I need to be willing to hear her out, to listen to how I have hurt her, to acknowledge my responsibility for her pain. But I don’t need to stand there and take a verbal beating. I can be accountable for my actions and still have boundaries.
I can make a mistake and still expect respect.
Seeking forgiveness shouldn’t have to cost us our self-worth
We all make mistakes. Every single one of us. But not everyone has the capacity to forgive. If you, like me, have not been forgiven by somebody you have hurt, move on.
I don’t mean give up on your relationship. You may have closed a door for now, but you should never give up hope that a new one will open. I just mean move on in the only way you are able, and that is by controlling the only thing within your control: yourself.
You are not evil. When you hurt someone you love, you do so for a reason. Granted, your reason may be misguided or morally questionable, but I’m guessing you don’t intentionally set out to cause pain to someone you care about.
You deserve to be forgiven, so forgive yourself, even if the person you hurt hasn’t forgiven you.
When you hurt someone you love, seek self-forgiveness
Below is my slightly edited spin on some words of wisdom I found in a Tiny Buddha® article. When you hurt someone you love and are struggling to forgive yourself, try the following:
- Accept your flaws. Know that even with your flaws, you are who you are meant to be. Your flaws, like your strengths, are part of your personality. They don’t make you less of who you are; they make you who you are.
- Keep in mind that you’re not a bad person. A good person who did a bad thing? Perhaps, but that doesn’t make you bad. Sometimes, good people screw up. That’s life.
- Get support. Talk to a friend, a relative, or perhaps a therapist about the altercation. Seeing yourself through the eyes of people who are less critical of you than you are of yourself may encourage you to be a little more self-forgiving.
- Roleplay. Imagine a good friend of yours has hurt someone in the same way you hurt somebody. She comes to you for advice. The person she hurt will not forgive her. Do you tell her she deserves to suffer or do you remind her that she’s human and tell her to go easy on yourself? I’m guessing the latter.
Now take that advice and apply it to yourself. With love.