practice

A Moment of Honesty about Forgiveness

As anyone in the spiritual work field will tell you-- whatever sermon we're about to preach will show up in our own personal battles.  Whatever lessons we're going to be called to teach will have to also continue being learned.  Whatever healing we're going to extend will have to first be received. And maturity is never zapped into us.  Praying for patience means that I'll be slowed down more today so I can build up that muscle; and asking for peace means knowing how to find our calm in the midst of the storm even if we thought we meant making the storm go away. Yes, I know all too well that to be a teacher means to first always be a student.

And last week was as blatant as it gets: "Shasta, you have more to keep learning and practicing!"

A Lesson in Forgiveness Presents Itself

All summer I planned for the launch of my author and book website: ShastaNelson.com. So it was with excitement last Tuesday that I woke up ready to show it to the world.

Except when I clicked on it, my videos weren't showing up the way I wanted them to.  And so I called the man who had been slaving for weeks on getting every design element coded, double-checking all my links, fixing typos I had missed, and sometimes changing one detail that the designer had requested only then to have me want to change it back.

With a stressful deadline, high hopes, and lots of exhaustion on both sides-- that Tuesday morning conversation ended with mutual frustration. Both sides feelings justified in their version of the story. But he interrupted what he was doing to make the change I requested and then we went live.

But instead of feeling happy, I felt kinda sick to my stomach at the misunderstanding. And while we like to think of ourselves as rationale human beings, research bears out that most of us make a decision based on a feeling and then go seek out the rational, logical, facts, and data that supports our feeling. So we both stewed over how the other person could have handled that scenario better.

I reached out once.  He didn't respond.  He reached out later.  I didn't respond. I had my feelings hurt.  And I also felt mad for how I had been treated.

The Irony Isn't Lost on Me

All the while-- my video on ShastaNelson.com is being shown to the world for the first time.  That video, "I Have a Theory That Friendship Can Change The World" is the core of my teaching-- basically that our relationships are the gymnasiums where we practice being the kind of people this world needs.  Building up muscles of compassion, encouragement, and yes, forgiveness.

Through out the day, whenever I felt frustrated, I'd shake my head in irony as I heard my own voice say, "Because if we can't forgive the people we've committed to loving... then what chance do we have of being able to extend that much-needed gift to people we don't yet know, people whose religious or political views are different from mine, or people who live on the other side of the world from us?"

I kept preaching to myself.  And I kept shaking it off.  I wasn't ready yet to forgive.

It is far too easy in those moments of hurt and anger to fall for the lie that to forgive the other person means to let them off the hook.  I've written on this subject (an entire chapter in my book), taught about it, coached people through it, done it countless times myself... but there I sulked.  Momentarily forgetting that I am the prisoner of my own frustration, my own unwillingness to forgive.

Now with it entirely behind me I look back and think it was the most ridiculous thing to have spent all that energy hurting, being frustrated, and feeling defensive about.  We've reconciled, both said sorry, and used the opportunity to share honest feelings and set up healthy expectations for the future.  We're fine.

But it hit me hard how little the things can be sometimes that end up holding so much more meaning for us.  The misunderstandings that turn into battles.  The hurt feelings that lead to separations.  The wounded egos that refuse to reconcile.  The meaning we attach to their words, letting them speak louder than was ever intended.

Fortunately most of our misunderstandings are with family, friends, and colleagues-- people we're committed to trying again with.  So we force ourselves up to the plate of saying sorry and offering forgiveness.

And every time I go there, I get a little more practiced at it.

I don't think it's a realistic goal that I can ever live without needing to forgive myself and others, but I do hope that I keep having the opportunities placed before me so that my suffering diminishes a little more each time as I learn to say sorry faster, offer forgiveness more thoroughly, and to extend reconciliation with more love.

Just know that every situation that calls you to forgive is a gift.  A place to practice growing up.  A place to step into the person we want to become.  A place where we practice the skills that the world needs.

I hope for you, today, the gift of someone to forgive. It's a gift.  Trust me.  :)

 

Friendship Break-Up 2: Saving a Drift, Avoiding a Rift

Friendship break-ups can be so hard. And painful. And sad. And, oh, ever so complicated! In the last post we looked at the two main types of friendship break-ups, with most of the focus being on The Drift--a more slow and unassuming process of two people drifting apart.

A Rift is often a more easily defined reason (than simply chalking it up to not having as much in common) for why we want out of the relationship. It almost always involves us feeling disappointed or hurt by the other-- as though they messed up, aren't healthy, or owe us an apology.

A Drift Can Turn Into a Rift

In a drift it might be because life either changed for them or for you (i.e. you retired, she went through a divorce, you moved away, she changed religions, you got pregnant) and while you may feel some resentment, there is a piece of you that understands the shift was nothing personal. We know they didn't leave the job because of us or get married to spite us. And we usually start off thinking we're still going to stay in touch... a Drift most often happens slowly... over time.

Both Drifts and Rifts have their valid reasons and times... but sometimes if we don't see the Rift coming, or don't understand how easily it can sneak into our relationship uninvited, it can turn into a Rift with hurt feelings and unmet expectations.

What brings the wounding in these situations is often expectations that didn't get met in the midst of the change. You felt sad that she was getting married when you liked being two single gals together, but you also didn't fault her.  However, when we interpret her calling less as loving us less or not making time for us anymore, we may start to feel she is to blame.  We miss her and don't know who to call to go out with so we resent how her life change is affecting our friendship. As our needs escalate, our insecurities get provoked, and our sadness feels more complicated; it becomes all too easy to feel like they're navigating it all wrong.

And they probably are.  As are we.

When you have two people in transition, trying to figure out a new way of being together-- it's almost guaranteed that it can't become something new without disappointing one of us along the way.  It won't just immediately arrive at some new pattern that we both like.

Preventing Drifts from Becoming Rifts

To prevent a Drift from turning into Rift-- there are three things I have found helpful:

  1. Tell her you value her. The very best thing we can do in those moments is to tell the other person that they are important to us. That their friendship matters to us to go through the awkwardness with them. To verbally commit that we intend to get through this change as friends, if possible.  I've said, "I just want you to know I love you and want our friendship to survive this change.  It may be hard at times, but you're worth it to me to figure it out."
  2. Acknowledge that it will change us. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves and others that there will be a change in our relationship.  We cannot have a baby and show up as though we haven't.  We cannot go through a divorce and still show up as a couple at parties.  We cannot leave our jobs and think that not seeing each every day won't impact how close we feel.  To try to pretend otherwise only seems to hurt feelings.  Instead, say something like, "I know it's going to take us some time to figure out our new normal... but I'm committed to that process." Saying out loud that we know things will change (what we talk about, how often we talk, how we spend our time together, etc.) helps normalize it for everyone.  It also acknowledges that we aren't likely to slip into a perfect pattern automatically.
  3. Be as generous as possible. Both of you are still trying to figure out your own lives, let alone know exactly how to incorporate the other in meaningful ways. How fabulous to say, "Let's just both try to be as generous with each other as possible while we figure this out.  Let's try to always assume the best of each other, even if we don't always do it perfectly. We know we don't want to hurt each other."

Almost every time we hear that someone we love still loves us and wants to make it work-- we're more likely to feel generous, gracious, and hopeful about the other.  Those two statements can come from either person-- the one who is experiencing the life change or the one who is feeling left behind.  Both of us have the opportunity to help give this gift of clarity to the relationship.

It Takes Two to Show Up Differently

It's rarely only the responsibility of one person to be open to the change--even if you think it's her fault. It takes two people willing to let go of how it was and willing to practice what can become. But one can always be the first and help invite the other into this new space.

  • If I leave the job we both used to hate together-- it may take practice to learn how to share with her my new business in a way that doesn't leave her feeling stuck there or pressured by me to leave; and it may take some getting used to when she stops sharing all the company gossip since I no longer work there and I am no longer invited out to company happy-hours.
  • If she starts dating a new guy while I'm still single-- it may take practice for me to get used to him getting all the attention I used to get and it may take some intention on her part to still make time for just us girls.
  • If I have another baby after her kids are all in school-- I will have to acknowledge she may not want a baby around every time we get together and she may have to practice showing the excitement for my life that I deserve even if she feels like she's past that point.

And I've found it so much easier to give that grace to each other if I have already built up a strong circle of other friends.  It means I make less demands of her.  It means I don't need her life to stay the same in order for me to love her.  It means I take responsibility for my own joy and health, rather than hold her to blame for my loneliness.  It means I have support from others when she's consumed.  It means I can love her for who she is, even if we don't have this big thing in common any more.

Every relationship change requires two people willing to hold the relationship with some kind of an open hand-- a willingness to let it become something new. It cannot stay the same.