Forgiving. Forgiveness. For Good.

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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

Where are we now…2015

2015 was quite a year. It was challenging and is hard to write about. A year of loss, grief and stress. It was a year of major losses and grief for both of us. And the impact of these losses reverberated all over the place for both of us. We both found we needed to retreat, to heal, to be supported and to support. And to be comfortable with moving through this process at our own individual paces. To ask for what we needed from each other. To be patient with ourselves. To be kind. To be open. To be friends.

Looking back, it was a year filled with lots of coffee and tea dates, filling each other in on what was happening in our personal lives including the many losses.

We had ambitious “goals” for our blog and business and we soon realized that these were not going to be accomplished. We realized neither of us had the energy to write as much as we had been and so we deliberately decided to write less and post fewer blogs. We took the pressure off. We gave ourselves permission to *just be* with all that had changed.

But what we were accomplishing was strengthening and deepening our bond of friendship.

We gave ourselves space to talk about our grief and loss. Our focus shifted. Our friendship deepened. We shared when we needed space and also when we needed more time together, not as business partners or colleagues but as friends. Sometimes we needed to put the business aside to allow our friendship to bloom, so that our collegial partnership could continue to grow too.

One of the challenges of becoming friends as we became collaborators is that we have little history with each other, either as work-mates or as play-mates. We have been co-creating both together at the same time and that is not always easy to do. We are learning that we can work through conflict, share our lives and losses, trust one another, and speak what is on our minds without fear of the other becoming defensive or silent (two of the four Horsemen that we’ll be talking about in the next post).

As we look back on 2015, what struck us is that we *lived* what science is proving: that friendship is good for our mental and physical health. Friendships allow us to survive loss and grief. More than that, each friendship can offer an *aspect* of what we need not only to survive but also to thrive.

We talked about the experience of writing this blog. We agreed that writing about the topic of friendship made choices in our own friendships clearer. And we found that new questions and ideas about friendship came out of our writings and conversations.

Writing about friendship issues and challenges helped each of us sort through our own perspectives, often opening up new perspectives and possibilities where confusion and conflict had been before. Talking about our own friendships has helped us move through stuck places and to (eventually) feel peace and calm. We talked about losing friendships as part of the grief and loss process.

Since starting The Smart Art of Friendship, each of us has gone through our own friendship transitions — realizing that a friendship has not been fulfilling for a long time, the experience of realizing a friendship needs to end. The pain and the relief of knowing what needs to happen.

We have been thinking wondering about how we think about friendship, how we approach it, and that maybe we have been viewing it from a micro level rather than the potentially transformative macro level.

And this has led us to wonder how others approach friendships. We hope to pose questions to men and women on the topic of friendship and to share their answers with you this year.

And we would love your thoughts, feedback and suggestions!

Thank you,
~Amy and Ruth

What does 2016 hold for the Smart Art of Friendship?

~Continuing to realize the importance of friendship – in life, in our lives, as we get older.
~We would like to engage in more conversations about friendship. With contributing guest bloggers, with difference perspectives from more people’s lived experience.
~We would like to explore how people experience friendship in their lives. Men, women, throughout the life span.

We will continue to write and post our blogs at the slower rate for now.