Among the most powerful words to say in healing our relationshipsare “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me. How can I make it up to you?” And yet, even when we know we’ve acted wrongly, something inside blocks us from saying so or taking action to make amends. More often, that something is a set of beliefs that act as excuses. Excuses are assumptions that, whether conscious or subconscious, block us from taking action. Here are the ten most frequent ones.
1. I’ll be seen as a bad person and not appreciated for the good things I’ve done.
This excuse also distracts us from directly resolving an issue. It focuses our attention on our fears — in particular, the fear of feeling we don’t matter or contribute value in our relationships. This is a shared experience, however. Like you, your partner is also wired to yearn to feel like a good and worthwhile person who is recognized for their contributions. The point here is that it was our actions that were hurtful not our self as a person. This is a vital distinction. When our actions caused some harm, the ball is in our court to restore a sense of trust and safety in the relationship.
2. I’ll have to feel uncomfortable emotions, such as shame, guilt and fear.
This excuse misdirects us to focus on avoiding pain rather than identifying the problem, what part of it we own, what action we can take toward resolution and so on. It makes sense that you don’t like feeling vulnerable. It also makes sense to feel uncomfortable emotions when someone is upset by our actions. It’s even useful to us! These feelings tell us we care, and that’s a good thing. It’s a source of information that, if you’re open, can grow your understanding of the situation. In other words: this is critical action-activating information. In contrast, ignoring the vulnerable aspects of human nature can keep us weak and fearful. Learning how to own and to strengthen our own sense of emotional safety in a triggering situation is an essential life skill that grows and strengthens our courage and confidence in the long run. Be open and willing to get comfortable with what is uncomfortable to you.
3. It’s the other’s job to forgive if they’re a good, unselfish person.
The truth is that both of you are good people at heart. Like genuine love, genuine forgiveness is a reciprocal process that nurtures both partners and allows them to learn and grow in the process. It is a willingness to engage in whatever actions necessary to nourish the relationship between two people, and enriches the growth and wellbeing of each. It’s as harmful to not acknowledge we’ve hurt another as it is to be pressured to forgive and forget — especially when actions are repetitive. If we want vibrant and healthy relationships, we must be willing to engage heartfelt efforts to own actions that, wittingly or unwittingly, hurt a person we love.
4. I’m entitled to forgiveness and should be forgiven without asking.
No one is entitled to automatic forgiveness, especially when actions are repetitive. In fact, in some contexts, this can “enable” us to form unhealthy habits or addictions. It’s not helpful to think of forgiveness as an automatic requirement. It does not help either person learn how to better relate to their feelings and thoughts, wants and needs, one another, themselves, or their relationship. It also takes less energy for a person who wronged another to take action and bring the necessary ingredients that create the context for healing to take place.
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