During the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to spend time with a number of family members. One of them was very frustrated by a situation that occurred where they were unduly wronged by another person. In short, they had every right to be angry and extremely disappointed with the way in which the situation unfolded.
However, as the weekend wore on, this individual continued to tell the same story over and over and to complain about the same issue. The repeated telling of their story added to the intensity of emotion and drama that this person displayed as they interacted with others. This experience became so disagreeable that I found myself wanting to escape the presence of this individual. I couldn’t help but reflect upon the fact that a good dose of forgiveness was in order if the situation was to ever be improved or neutralized from the paralyzing effect that it was having.
In a broader sense, there is far too much offense being taken by individuals where no offense was intended. Unfortunately, anyone may unintentionally do or say things that we may find offensive. Once an offense occurs people seem to want to spend their time brooding over the wrong that someone bestowed upon them. They want some form of justice or the person to get their come-uppance. These are very human and normal reactions.
However, if we allow those negative feelings of anger multiply, over time they turn into a spirit of vindictiveness and retribution that cankers their spirit and the interactions of that person with others. When an individual’s focus is constantly upon the wrongs they have suffered, they end up lacking the ability to move forward and free themselves to embrace the future.
Here are a few suggestions for your consideration if you find yourself harboring feelings of anger, resentment, and ill-will toward others, or if you find yourself dealing with someone who displays that behavior.
1. Forgive and forget. When we can’t forgive others, we really can’t move forward because we let past wrongs consume us. I have found that sometimes the reason that people don’t make an effort to ask our forgiveness is because they don’t know that they did anything wrong. Yes, some folks are clueless. So, unless you are willing to discuss an offense with them, don’t expect them to meet your expectations. Forgive them for whatever they did and move on. This is often easier said than done because sometimes forgiveness is a process that just takes time. If their offensive actions continue, then perhaps you need to clue them in about how their behavior makes you feel and identify what you would like to experience instead.
2. Say, “I’m sorry.” If you are the offending party, then own it and apologize. This is difficult for many people to do because it implies that they were at fault. However, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to offend, you want to own your actions and move on from the situation. Often our own pride and selfishness become the barriers to getting to the point of asking forgiveness of others.
3. Forgive yourself. Sometimes we do some petty or stupid things. At other times, we want what we want, so we are unwilling to look objectively at a situation and recognize the obvious. Whatever the case, forgive yourself and move on. It is difficult to forgive others if you can’t forgive yourself first. So, recognize that the way we grow and learn is by making mistakes. The challenge is to make mistakes quicker, so we can learn, change and grow.
4. Listen to the stories.You are the clue to understanding you. If you find yourself telling the same emotional or negative stories over and over again, you should cue into your behavior and try to understand what is driving it. Once you recognize your behavior, then you might ask yourself why you are engaging in such a way. People often want to feel justified in their feelings or they want the current injustice to be acknowledged by another. Still others want sympathy or even advice about what they should do. If you are the one telling the story, then you need to examine your motives.
If you are the recipient of another’s angst and frustration, you may need to confront them about what they want. For example, you might say something like, “I have heard you tell the same story with a lot of passion three times in the last two hours. How can I help with this situation?” Notice that making such a statement allows them to reflect on their behavior and asks them to identify what they want from you.
5. Focus on the positive. It almost seems natural to focus on another person’s weaknesses or to notice how our expectations were violated by another. We usually see what we are looking for. If you are always focusing on the negative, then the negative becomes magnified. This is what happens when you tell the same story over and over again. You are magnifying your thoughts and feelings about the situation and that makes things worse. If the other person’s negative behavior is frustrating, then it is time to hold a REAL Conversation. If it is not worth bringing it up, then focus on the positive and speak the positive.
6. Keep negativity to yourself. People are put off by others who are always negative or who are always complaining and blaming others. Seeking advice with a respected associate is one thing, but always painting yourself as a victim will not improve the current situation. If you cannot bring yourself to speak to the offending party, then suspend the negativity and move on.
7. Refocus the conversation. When you are involved in a conversation that turns negative, emotional, or vindictive, refocus the conversation by bringing up something positive or by changing the subject to a topic of mutual interest between you and the other person.
Forgiveness is the balm that heals relationships. Rather than spending time harboring ill-will and feeling resentment, we should recognize our opportunity and forgive those that may have wronged us and ask forgiveness of those we may have wronged. We should live in a way that allows us to forgive others and for others to forgive us.
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