How to Forgive Those That Have “Wronged” You

Have you ever felt “wronged” or abused by someone?
A revised version of this article has been published on Psych Central.

greenlake
Walk around Green Lake on a spring day in Seattle.

Everyone at some point or another has felt disappointed and disillusioned by the words or actions of others.  We all create images of specific roles we desire certain people to play in our lives.  We long for the comfort of family, friends, and colleagues, as well as look up to teachers and mentors for inspiration.  What happens when the people in your life that you care about and you thought cared about you begin to hurt or “wrong” you?  How do you recover from the betrayal?  Deep-rooted abuse can be especially hard to reconcile, and often times in painful situations, we either a). flee or b). become numb and continue to participate in the victim-abuser cycle.  Every situation is different (I’m not an expert and can only speak from my own experiences).

In most cases, if someone hurts you, the most important thing to do is to tell them.  Since we are all so self-absorbed in maintaining our own self-worth and identity, we often times don’t realize that our words and actions are harming others.  If you are able to point out to your friend, family member or colleague that what they just did hurt you, then the door has been opened to invite in reconciliation.  However, this can be tricky, because often times people are stubborn, feel “attacked” and can’t come to terms with themselves.  Going down the “blame-game” is a slippery slope and I highly advise not going down that route.  Directing a finger only at “you” doesn’t solve anything and creates much resentment.  When in relationship with others, it is always a two-way street.

Often times people fit into two categories a). those that have a complete inability to authentically apologize and say “I’m sorry” and b). those that are constantly guilt-ridden, blame themselves for everything and inappropriately say “I’m sorry” for everything.  Where is the middle ground?  The healthy boundary?

In order for true reconciliation to take place, all expectations must be thrown out the window.  This is a catch 22 because we usually “expect” a response.  We expect our kids to behave, our spouses/partners to be supportive and forgiving, and our employees to submit to the authority of their boss.  However, due to our nature of being human, we are often times incapable to just “let things go.”  Hence, “grudges” are born, bitterness permeates and extreme self-justification becomes prevalent.  These are all defense mechanisms.  It is important to “guard” yourself against repeat abuse, but at the same time a certain amount of walls must be shed in order to truly feel inner peace.  Holding the weight of ill-will can get heavier and heavier over time.. and is no way to live a joyful life.

If someone is unwilling to speak to you or you don’t feel safe to invite them back into your life, I recommend writing a letter to this person (you don’t have to give it to them).  Ask them for forgiveness for any pain you caused them (even if you truly don’t believe you had a part to play) and let them know that you have forgiven them for all the pain they have caused you.  If you are at a point where you can re-open the door, perhaps actually send the letter, pick up the phone or meet in person.  This all of course depends on how safe you feel.  If you don’t trust yourself to make the proper judgement, perhaps solicit advice from a trustworthy friend or counselor.  Also, remember that time is the best healer.  A period of silence, space and reflection between both parties may be necessary and is a good thing.

Perhaps reconciliation with a particular person is completely out of the question.  This is always sad to me because I believe that reconciliation can always be possible.  However, if you don’t believe this to be so, I feel it is extremely important to forgive and restore what has taken place within yourself.  Give it up to God, the “universe” or whatever your faith system is.  If you insist on carrying the weight and not deal with it, then patterns can begin to show up in other relationships or areas of your life.

Forgiveness truly is the key to reconciliation and will always provide freedom from bound shackles.

—–
by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2014

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Why Relationships Break

Four reasons why relationships break.
This article has been published on Elephant Journal.

Welcome to 2012 in America.  A time of technological advances, social media, and economic crashes.  A time of uncertainty, civil unrest and dysfunctional relationships.  Sounds cynical, you might say.  And perhaps a cynic I am at times, however, I’m sure at one point in your life or another, you’ve thought, “what is wrong with me/her/him/them?  Why can’t we all just get it together?”

Doesn’t everyone want a life of love, peace and security?  Yet, why instead are many of us filled with fear, anxiety, and hopelessness?  Where did we go wrong?  One explanation of what went wrong goes back to the story of the Garden of Eden.  However, I will save that specific topic for another article.  This article is focused on my theory of what goes wrong in relationships.

Every person is placed on this Earth to fulfill a particular mission and to journey across a particular “path.”  Whether the mission is to reach an end goal is neither here or there.  Many times it’s what you’re doing and who you encounter that has the most significant impact.  Its during this walk of life when honey bee meets flower, moon meets ocean, and boy meets girl.  A relationship starts to develop and can either flourish or flounder.  How do you keep your relationship thriving and alive?  How can you/we/us keep it together?  My theory of why relationships break stems from four simple words:

Abuse
Adultery
Absence
Arrogance

Let’s discuss.

Abuse

This one is self-explanatory… or is it?  Abuse can take many forms, from physical to emotional to spiritual.  Obviously if you are being physically abused, GET OUT as soon as possible.  Violence, sexual and any form of contact where injury and pain are involved is not acceptable and should never be tolerated.

Emotional abuse is also known as psychological abuse.  While a person may not be causing physical pain or injury to one’s body, he or she may be causing psychological pain and injury to one’s mind, emotional state, and overall well-being.  Such things that count as emotional abuse are verbal aggression or name-calling, constant “put-downs” and diminishing of the other person (this may also be a form of spiritual abuse or seen as a “power struggle”).  Hot/cold behaviors can be emotionally abusive, where one only shows love conditionally, then shows hatred immediately when they don’t get their “way.”  Its like switching the hot and cold water faucet back and forth.  Does she love me or hate me?  Quite confusing, huh?  Emotional abuse can be very damaging, because the scars left can be carried inside forever, and if not dealt with and processed, can continue to cause future destruction (to others and to oneself).

Finally, spiritual abuse.  How is this defined in the context of a relationship?  In religious institutions or cults, this can be seen as a form of manipulation or “brainwashing” in which certain beliefs and behaviors are ingrained in a person or group of people in order to instill unauthentic authoritative power in the name of some God, deity, higher power, or spiritual concept.  This form of abuse in a relationship can be prevalent when one party has the mindset of wanting to “control” their partner.  Whether conscious or not, the controller takes on the “authoritative” role in a self-serving way versus in a humble way for the betterment of the relationship. I don’t believe anyone should be “controlled,” however I do feel there must be submission in order for a relationship to survive and thrive (more will be discussed about this this in the Arrogance section).

Opposite of abuse:  Nurture

Adultery

This is self explanatory…  or is it?  Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone that is not their legal spouse.  Basically, if you’re doing it with someone other than your partner, you are committing adultery.  However, what about acts or behaviors towards a non-spouse or non-partner that aren’t necessarily the full deal, but still has sexual or loving connotations involved?  What about a kiss?  What about a love letter?  Are these considered acts of adultery?  I vote yes.

The line becomes pretty gray and blurry at times, however, if you begin to feel love and passion towards someone other than your partner (which may happen, given our fallen human nature) and you decide to develop this feeling, then this is the first step of adultery.  The key is whether you decide to take action to develop another relationship (whether physical or emotional) with another person.  By “following your heart,” and taking steps to be closer to this other person, you are walking into dangerous and dark territory.

However, by dismissing this other person, you are making a conscious choice to be true and loving to your partner.  When an outside person shows up to test you and your love for your partner, instead of taking a step towards possible adulterous domain, do the opposite.  A general rule of thumb is if it feels fun and exciting, devious and tempting, walk away.  Discipline is the ultimate road to true love.

Opposite of adultery:  Faithfulness

Absence

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but too much absence makes the heart wander.” – Thomas Haynes Bayly

Sounds simple, however, there are various levels of absenteeism.  First of all, I think its very healthy to spend time away from your partner.  This can give you both time to reflect and regenerate, so you can be fresh and ready for each other again.  However, physical absence for too long can cause much stress and strain on the relationship.  As humans, we are dependent creatures.  We depend on others for survival, and when you enter into a relationship with someone, a vulnerability and need for each other is created.  Those that claim they are completely “independent,” and don’t “need” anyone are fooling themselves.  Whether you have a partner or not, as a human, you are dependent on and need other humans for sanity purposes (family, friends, partners, etc.)

There is also emotional absence.  We’ve all experienced this.  You may be physically in a room with someone, but it may seem as if they are not “quite there.”  They are off drifting away, and may not even realize that there is someone sitting right in front of them.  They may go through the motions of conversation with you, but their words are thoughtless and empty, maybe even robotic.  There is no conscious engagement, no authentic interest or regard.  Perhaps there is an absence of communication, an absence of understanding, or even an absence of true love.  There may be an absence of compromise, or an inability to meet your partner half way, an absence of affection, or an absence of common shared goals.  The list of absences can go on.  Many people continue in relationships for mere comfort purposes and don’t even realize that much is absent.  You absolutely must be present with your partner.

Finally, there is spiritual absence.  Two people must share the same core and moral values in order to survive.  I’m not saying that you must agree on everything (there should be a healthy amount of debating and disagreement), and you don’t need to have exactly the same views, however, the basic fundamentals must be in unity.  There must a presence of shared beliefs (whether religious, political, business or family oriented, etc).  There must be something the two must believe in together besides themselves.  Also, when two people come together, sacrifices must be made because you are no longer a single entity operating on your own.  If there is an absence of the ability to make sacrifices or an absence of the ability to operate together as a unit or team with the same core beliefs, dangerous waters may lie ahead.  The catch in all of this is that its very important to know and appreciate what you DO have present in your relationship (instead of always focusing on what’s absent).  There must be a realistic balance.

Opposite of absence:  Presence

Arrogance

Arrogance is defined as an offensive display of superiority or self-importance and/or overbearing pride.  Pride is also known as original sin. Pride is tricky because it can disguise itself as other emotions such as self-esteem, self-worth, honor, joy, delight and treasure.

Arrogance can also sometimes be mistaken for confidence.  Confidence can be a good quality, but taken too far, turns to egocentricity and turns one into a “know it all.”  Someone that believes the entire world revolves around them is destined for failure because guess what, the world is huge and you are not the only one living in it!  However, there’s a catch because isn’t your partner supposed to be your “one and only?”  Aren’t you supposed to revolve the world around each other?  Sounds like such a beautiful song or poem.   But can this really be?  It would be arrogant to believe that two people can be the center of each others universes (it may even be arrogant of me to write this article).  So then what the heck?

I believe the key to not falling into the arrogance trap is to humble yourself.  At any point in your relationship and with any situation that comes up between the two of you.. one partner must submit and humble themselves.  I do not believe equal 50/50 relationships exist.  51/49 is the way to go.  There should always be a dance going on between the lead (51) and the follow (49), or the proposer (51) and the submitter (49).  In some relationships, there is always one partner that takes the lead/proposer role, and the other always following/submitting.  This can be okay only to a certain extent, because there will be specific situations that come up where the roles will have to be reversed.  Both roles should be constantly rotating and interchanging.

The 51/49 theory can also be seen as the “give and take” game.  There is always a giver, and always a taker.  However, this should be balanced and not too skewed towards one person. If your partner is always taking, expecting things, and needs to constantly and inappropriately be taken care of, this is arrogant.  Or if you are always giving because you have more to give, feel you know more, or have more to provide or prove, then this is arrogant.  The give and take must be balanced and each partner must take turns.  If you can master this dance with your partner, then your feet will stay happily on the dance floor.

Opposite of arrogance:  Humility

So there we have it.. my theory of broken relationships.  It is actually very sad to realize that we live in such a broken world with so many shattered relationships.  Perhaps one day the minority of people that are still able to make things work can rise up and become a majority.  If two people can embody the characteristics of nurturing, faithfulness, being present, and humbling themselves, perhaps they can pass on these attributes to their children and future generations so we can start to have a better world filled with love, peace, and security.  Perhaps one day there will be nothing to fear and be anxious about.  Instead we will all be united and replenished with virtue.  I do believe this day will come, but until then, the time is now, and how you decide to act in your relationship will lay the foundation for your future.

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by Kristin Bach
Copyright 2012