Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘independence’

Practicing Forgiveness is Good for Your Heart!

In childhood it’s all about self but as we mature into adulthood we begin to understand the importance of being kinder, more forgiving and accepting of others. We start to see the world in shades of grey rather than simply black and white. This week the Pope’s message was to practice ‘peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.’ It seems that integral to doing this is to practice the art of forgiveness.

There is a reason that forgiveness is at the heart of healing. At a recent gathering in Manhattan 400 people were asked if they had difficulty and were not on speaking terms with members of their families. Over two-thirds of the participants raised their hands! Think about how many people are holding on to grudges and surrounding themselves with negative energy – it must be exhausting. Recognizing the importance of the topic, forgiveness is being further studied through the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

There are two common themes within all of this – forgiveness and its challenging cousin – judgment. When we think about an upset between family members or friends it seems to boil down to two things: assuming we hold the trump card on truth (believing that we know how others should feel or behave) and refusing to accept responsibility for any hurt we may have caused them through our practice of judging. Judgment can be felt without any words spoken.

When judgmental attitudes surface those half-hearted apologies of ‘I’m sorry that you’re upset,’ are not examples of respect or love. A true apology is recognizing what we have done that has hurt someone and then being courageous enough to verbalize it to them. In other words it’s about us – our actions – and not their reactions that are at play here.

The good news is that as we practice accepting responsibility for own own behavior we become stronger, more positive and happier people. We begin to realize that we don’t walk in another’s shoes and really have no idea about how difficult it is for them to learn their own life lessons. Maybe – just maybe – they are doing the best they know how at this moment.

Dr. Fritz Perls, the noted German psychoanalyst who emphasized Gestalt Therapy speaks to tolerance and acceptance of others in The Gestalt Prayer:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful…

When I read this prayer I think of a world in which true acceptance of differences is foremost in our thinking and behavior. Peace, tolerance and respect for self and others flows from this mindset. We become more rather than less as human beings.

We are all in a fluid state between independence and interdependence in life. Doesn’t it just make sense to look for the strengths in family and friends rather than focusing on what we perceive as their weaknesses? When we acknowledge their effort we show them that we have faith in their ability to handle difficult situations. We allow them to grow. As we learn to judge less and forgive more the value and significance of touching base or celebrating holidays begins to take on a greater significance. We learn to bring our best selves to the table and treat our family and friends as we would like to be treated.

Over the next few days let’s try to see how we can practice greater forgiveness and allow the Pope’s message of peace, tolerance and respect to take seed in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Have You Arrived Yet?

Have you ever had someone ask you to call them when you have arrived at your destination? How did you respond? Did you interpret it as a sign of caring and love or an infringement on your personal space? The truth is that like many things we do in life we interpret things as a negative or positive based on our early conditioning.

People who dealt with fear growing up as a predominant factor in their early lives often need reassurance that all is okay. It is such an integral part of their makeup that they unwittingly perpetuate it on others and, at times, restrict growth. Taken to a further extreme they may even help create a fear of life in those they love the most. Do they do it purposely? Absolutely not! They are simply living out the life they experienced and passing it on to their loved ones. Is it time to hit the delete button?

As adults if we fall into the category of fearing life we can begin to confront that free floating fear and work through it by refusing to allow ourselves to continue to live in a state of constant anxiety and worry. The other option, of course, is to blame our responses on our upbringing and continue to live out a life script of fear. The truth is that once we come to grips with the fact that 99% of everything we worry about never happens we are at a cross road for decision making. Do we continue to worry and fret or slowly, gently wean ourselves away from the need to know – to control – to have something to worry about.

Teenagers often interpret the request to ‘check in’ as a sign of lack of trust. Sometimes it is due to events of the recent past. We know that as our children become young adults everything in their world becomes an issue of control. The challenging yet critical issue for parents is the gradual timing of letting the reins out slowly as our children mature. Too fast and they flounder, too slowly and they resent it.

For those who did not have an adult – a consistent mother figure in particular – in their lives that tried to loving watch, suggest, even direct the actions of their children at times the idea of ‘call me when you get there’ is foreign, an affront even, to them. They may stay stuck in the stage of a rebellious child for the rest of their lives. Deep down they know something was missing – what that was exactly – they are not sure.

Everything can be taken to an extreme. From eating and drinking at one end of the spectrum to advice giving and the ‘checking in’ factor to the other. Anything can become excessive. If we encounter a behavior or response directed to us that appears to be excessive try a gentle reminder to the person. ‘I’ve got this handled,’ is a statement that speaks volumes about personal responsibility and independence. Like life the issue is one of balance. It is a tricky road to negotiate at times.

Responses change as we mature in life. That is the beauty of it all. We don’t have to remain stuck behaving or responding the way we did in the past because everyday with each new life experience we are given the choice to see it as a potential for growth and deeper understanding or an excuse to remain stuck in the past. It is always up to us.

Maybe the next time someone asks you to let them know when you have arrived at your destination, you can take a deep breath and be grateful that someone who cares enough to request it is still in your life.