Forgiving. Forgiveness. For Good.

On the heels of our previous blog post on Conflict and The Four Horsemen, we started to talk about forgiveness and what it means for friendship. Why is it important in friendships?

What does it mean to forgive following a conflict or in the face of unmet expectations?  In this blog post, we are talking about forgiving hurts, disappointments, let downs, humiliations, feeling left out, or feeling exposed without your permission (and more.)

Forgiving is not easy, especially for those of us who stockpile our hurts with a layer of resentment on top of it. Forgiving goes hand in hand with being able to be in conflict with each other which can be quite uncomfortable.

“Although it can be painful, sometimes a person we love seeks distance that we have to accept. Our friends are free to be friends with whomever they choose. Their feelings for us may wax and wane. We want everyone we love to be loyal and stable figures in our lives, but we can’t always have that. Change and impermanence are part of every relationship, and we can’t hold the clock still, much as we may try.”
~Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Connection

Sometimes forgiving is connected to what John Gottman refers to as repairing a rupture in your friendship. In relational terms repair is about getting back on track. And it allows for resilience to grow in your relationship. And, as it turns out, it is the recipient of repair that makes the difference along with how we choose to maintain friendship, intimacy and emotional connection.

Gottman describes a repair attempt as “any statement or action – silly or otherwise – that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.” If we need to, how can we develop these strategies within our friendships?

Forgiveness does not mean you are condoning what your friend did or said, or what happened, or didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean forgetting either or that you have to go back to the friendship. It might be part of the letting go process in a friendship.

Forgiving is for ourselves, not for the other person. Holding onto a hurt or a grudge can turn into bitterness and can become toxic within ourselves. It is for our own mental and physical health that we forgive ourselves and others.

The process of forgiving is owning what is our part in what happened. What is our role in what unfolded and how do we make amends? It takes courage to let someone know you have been hurt.

In his book, Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, Fred Luskin delves into forgiveness in all kinds of relationships.

“Forgiveness helps people control their emotions so they maintain good judgment. They do not waste precious energy trapped in anger and hurt over things they can do nothing about. Forgiveness acknowledges we can’t change the past. Forgiveness allows us not to stay stuck in the past.” ~Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good

While there is no *right* way to forgive, here are some guidelines:

  • Be genuine: apologize from the heart.
  • Be clear with your boundaries: in other words, be clear about what is OK and not Ok with you.
  • Know your own hot buttons.
  • Consider and share: how are we going to go forward differently?
  • You might want to write your very personal, raw, angry, unfiltered rough draft of your perspective. Do not send it. Keep writing and rewriting until, perhaps, you have words you can share with your friend.

It can be humbling and healing to forgive. It takes courage and self-awareness to acknowledge and accept our own flaws. Embracing our differences and understanding that conflict offers us opportunities to learn about ourselves and our friends.

1Perhaps we can imagine that forgiveness is a suspension bridge that keeps the lines of communication open and allows us to see each other more clearly.

“Forgiveness is the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally, take responsibility for how you feel, and become a hero instead of a victim in the story you tell.” ~Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good

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