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