Reconciliation

Today is National Reconciliation Day!

Oh I wish this holiday had been on my radar last week so I could have given you plenty of notice to start thinking about what action you wanted to take today toward reconciliation! Watch the 30 minute HuffPo Live panel regarding Reconciliation by clicking on the link to the left.  (Featuring: Alvin, going through a divorce, Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess, and me-- all sharing our experiences and wisdom.

But, alas, it was only when HuffPost Live contacted me and asked if I'd be on a live panel this afternoon on the topic of reconciliation that I was made aware that there was such a day.  Apparently Ann Landers decided back in 1989 that every April 2 should be celebrated with everyone picking up the phone to call with whom we may have had a falling out with, hence it's become the Day of Reconciliation.

I was honored to share on the panel, but here is a more comprehensive post about what reconciliation can look like.

The Two Types of Break-Ups

First, there are two types of fall-outs that I speak to: Rifts and Drifts.

Rifts are when something happens to undermine the relationship; whereas, Drifts are when nothing specific happens to the relationship yet we find ourselves slowly drifting apart.

You undoubtedly have experience with both.  Reconciliation is possible and necessary with both, but they may look quite different.

Reconciling Rifts & Drifts

Let's start with defining reconciliation.  Reconciliation can mean reestablishing the close relationship, but it also means simply the ability to find resolution, or acceptance. In other words, when we speak of reconciliation, it doesn't automatically mean that the goal should be intimacy, trust, and connection with the person we felt hurt by.  Certainly, to come to peace, to forgive the other person, might mean that we'd be open to that re-engagement someday if growth had occurred on both sides.  But more often than not, forgiveness might just mean finding our own peace, reconciling what is real with our expectations of what we want.  The discrepancy between those two causes unmeasured angst.

In my book, knowing whether we're dealing with a Drift or Rift helps me know what path of reconciliation to seek.

Drifts....

If there is Drift in a relationship, the invitation is for us to not only recognize it is happening, but also to check with ourselves about whether we want it to happen.

In one of my recent Drifts, I knew that it was only busy-ness and distraction that was putting distance between us.  In my gut, I knew I wanted this friendship to last.  I didn't need to know whether I needed it as often or as deeply in my life as we had co-created before, but I was clear when I checked-in with myself that I didn't want to lose the friendship. So in this relationship, I wrote her a note and said,

"I miss you! I know we've both been so busy, and I'm so sorry that on my end I've not been as present or available. I know relationships ebb-and-flow, but I definitely don't want to let us get too far from each other since you mean so much to me!  Any chance you're up for scheduling a catch-up call next week?  I'm flexible Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday evening, do you have an hour anytime in there you'd be willing to give me?"

Reconciliation in this case was reaching out with a sorry I've neglected the relationship (it doesn't matter if she has, too, our apology is still true) and a stated desire to re-engage. She was honored and grateful.  Neither of us had meant anything malicious and neither had wanted to put any pressure on the other. But we all like to know that the other misses us and naming it helps us both take it less personally. (Because if you ignore it here, this is where we're more likely to get our feeling hurts with unmet expectations that can then turn into a Rift, all because we didn't address the Drift.)

To contrast it, another Drift in the last couple of years was a relationship where I checked-in with myself and realized that reconciliation actually meant being okay with letting the relationship take a backseat.  I was at peace with it happening because I sensed that both of us were going different directions, our energies pulling us into other relationships and experiences.  To try to re-engage here would have been simply out of guilt, the voice of "you should..."

In some cases of Drifting, it's possible that the two of you simply call less and less and it slowly dissipates.  That's okay, but if possible, I'd still prefer  a little communication if possible, out of respect for what we've shared.  Obviously every situation is different, and is largely determined by whether we sense both people are at peace or if we feel she is still pursuing while we're retreating.  But in my case, in response to her reaching out to me via email to set up a time for dinner, I wrote,

"Thank you so much for thinking of me!  You are someone whose relationship has meant so much to me over the years.  Let's definitely get a dinner on the calendar, and hopefully we can make that happen every couple of months even though I know we're both so busy! I hope that no matter how much time and distance ever separates us, that we can always call each other a friend.  I so admire you."

Reconciliation in this case was two-fold: me being at peace with letting the relationship be something other than "all-or-nothing," and making sure I communicated to her how much I admired her.  My goal is to leave relationships with people feeling better about themselves for having known me.

Rifts...

Rifts, can be a bit trickier, in that our hearts have likely been more bruised and our expectations more unmet.  Her disappointing actions have left us frustrated and questioning the friendship, which is almost impossible to do with out us feeling both defensive and judgmental.  Those two feelings make it hard for us to even want to reconcile.

The second-to-last chapter of my book highlights healthy options for responding to the five friendship threats, but for these purposes today, let me just get on my soapbox for a moment and say this:

GirlFriends--as a rule of thumb, treat your friendships that experience frustration and disappointment with the same courtesy you give to your romantic relationships: consider a mature conversation.

I've yet to hear of the dating break-up where someone disappointed you and you just cut off contact without ever having a single conversation about it! No! We may dislike confrontation, but we step up to it for romance.  We say, "We need to talk..." and then we tell them what we need, how they hurt us, what's okay, what isn't, what we hope for, etc.  Sometimes it turns into this awesome conversation where we both feel heard and we can move into a more meaningful and trusting relationship.  But even the times it leads to a fight, we always expect a follow-up conversation, knowing we need to either make-up or at least facilitate as healthy closure as possible. Sometimes we break-up, make-up, and break-up again.  We give them multiple chances, because we "love him" (or her), or because we know "he's trying...", or because we've "invested so much already."  All valid excuses we should be giving to our girlfriends!

So off my soapbox, while I know full re-engagement of the relationship, recovering from whatever caused the Drift, isn't always possible, I am an advocate of at least trying before a friendship break-up.  Too many of us walk away, unwilling to try again, claiming the other person isn't healthy, doesn't know how to be a friend, or  can never be trusted again.  All of which may not necessarily be true.  As any of us who have been a long-term relationship can attest, we will hurt each other, and that doesn't mean we can't also still love each other well.

Your Invitation:

Since you're getting this blog post so late in the evening on this Reconciliation holiday you may think you're off the hook from having to reconcile with someone?  No way!  In fact, they say the best way to let yourself off the hook is to forgive, to come to peace, to accept, or to resolve.  Who can you reach out to tonight or tomorrow as your way of stepping into a holiday that we should really be practicing 365 days a year?

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More relevant posts:

  1. Friendship Break-Ups 1: A Drift or a Rift  (Defining both, and going into more detail about causes for Drifts.)
  2. Friendship Break-Ups 2: Saving a Drift, Avoiding a Rift (3 steps to help prevent our Drifts from becoming Rifts)
  3. Friendship Break-Ups 3: Was She Really a Friend, Anyway? (Speaking to when we get our feelings hurt because a friend wasn't there for us...)
  4. Friendship Break-Ups 4: Letting Go or Holding On? (How to decide if the friendship is worth pursuing.)

 

 

 

 

Earth Day, God, and Relationships

On this blog I talk about relationships. Almost every week (not quite as regular this month since I immersed myself in writing the final chapters of my book manuscript!) I write about how our relationships impact us, or how we can impact them. Today, with Earth Day coming up this weekend, I challenge us to see the planet as one more relationship we are called to care for. And, while I have yet to write a piece on our environment, I find that the subject is actually very much in alignment with our friendships.

Allow me this moment to explain...

A Story of Our Beginnings

One of the stories of our beginnings comes from the book of Genesis in the Jewish scriptures.  In that version, Adam & Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, introducing sin into our world.

Sin is often described as disobedience, conjuring up images of preachers pounding podiums and warning of hell. But I find that definition to be too narrow for most of us.  Indeed sin can be wrong-doing that needs forgiveness, but there are many other metaphors used throughout sacred scriptures that sometimes speaks to us better at different times including: exile and return, slavery and liberation, fear and peace, missing the mark and staying the course, rejection and acceptance, and the one I want to focus on today: disconnection and reconciliation.

What Adam and Eve experienced that day was, among other things, a profound sense of disconnection. In so many ways, the wedge of what we call sin in this world, impacts all four of our relationships:

  1. Our Relationship to God: This is often the one that gets the most attention-- the message often being that we have to re-prove ourselves to God or find ways to please God. But really I think it's the next relationship, the one we have with our selves, that actually can mess up the one with we have with God. It becomes increasingly difficult to believe in a Love that is bigger than anything we can imagine or see.
  2. Our Relationship to Self: How we see ourselves, the ego that starts to motivate us, the defensiveness and fear we live from, our deep sense of never being quite-good-enough. We rarely feel the alignment we seek, often feeling at war with ourselves, distracted, torn, and pulled toward different values.
  3. Our Relationship to Others: As soon as fear entered our world, it became impossible to not look at each other with suspicion and distrust. In our need to feel good enough personally, it's impossible to give the gift of acceptance and love to each other. The Other becomes a threat to our personal survival.  Even with those close to us, who we commit to love, we struggle our entire lives to live it out in ways that don't hurt each other.
  4. Our Relationship to the Earth: Perhaps one of the saddest, and least talked about relationships that experienced deep wounding because of our fear is that with our planet. In the story of the Garden of Eden, a perfectly created earth began to grow thorns and experience it's own form of death and decay. God commissioned the first humans with the responsibility to be stewards of the earth, working with God to reverse this decay rather than contribute to it. We have lost the very real sense of connection and responsibility for this home of ours-- often seeing it as something to use, not seeing it as something to protect.

Every Relationship is Connected

My personal belief is that all the four relationships above are inter-connected. I actually don't think we can segment ourselves, compartmentalizing some relationships as separate than others, and live full, abundant, healthy and love-filled lives.

In other words, you hear me often say that I don't think we can decide to have healthy relationships with others, without having a healthy relationship with ourselves. Conversely, I don't think we can fully be at peace with ourselves if we have angst in our relationships.

I know the God-piece throws off many of us-- perhaps we're uncomfortable with that particular title/label or how we've seen others use it for their purposes.  But whether we call it Bigness--the Universe, Spirit, Mother Nature, Karma, the Sacred, or God--the truth remains that whatever worldview we end up adopting, whatever belief we hold about what runs our world, or what we can expect from this life, this relationship with that which is outside of us cannot not impact our relationships with others and ourselves.

And in honor of Earth Day, I sound a clarion call that one more relationship we are called to attend to is that of our planet. Like any relationship, we have to figure out how we can enter into a healthy give-and-take-- growing ever conscious of what we use versus what we replenish, restore, reuse, and grow. This call extends to how we treat and protect animals, how we view our forests and our farmland, how we share resources with others, and how we protect the eco-systems, water supplies, and every other gift our planet has offered.

Our Calling

I shared the story of the Garden of Eden because it beautifully ties all four relationships together. Our own distrust of God and our desire to grab whatever we want brings pain and consequence to all four relationships. What we do in one affects the others.  We are not separate.

The story of our beginnings that says that we will toil and hurt in all four of those relationships is picked up again, at the end of the same Bible, in the story of another New Beginning.  This one, in the book of Revelation, says that God wants to bring reconciliation to all that is disconnected. And every story in between those pages, for Jews, Muslims, and Christians is about our call to be, what one of the New Testament writers Paul describes as, "Ambassadors of Reconciliation."

We are invited to carefully evaluate all four relationships and then do all we can to bring love, healing, safety, joy, and peace, wherever we can.

That means that if we say we want healthy friendships with other women, then part of that is getting healthy and pro-active about our relationship to how we give, protect, and love this planet that we call home.

Happy Earth Day!