Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, Believe them -the first time.”
My daughter can do an excellent imitation of Maya Angelou stating this encouragement. She always makes me either smile or groan when she quotes Ms. Angelou. It really depends on the occasion and the subject. And believe you me, throughout the years of childhood, adolescents and young adulthood, we have had many an opportunity to quote this statement in our household. Faithful friends and not-so-faithful friends are difficult to sort through.
Well – Sit down, friend. Let’s talk about hurt, forgiveness and the mess of relationships.
Our humanity makes our lives full of mistakes and hurts from one another and towards one another. We unintentionally hurt a dear friend, spouse or child. And sometimes, we are the receiver of hurt. We are the ones who have the daunting task to determine what to do with the hurt and pain we feel when another person we trust pierces our heart deeply – or just accidentally ‘steps on our toe.’
One of my favorite books on forgiveness and Love is “Bold Love” by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III. The subtitle is of this book is simply brilliant, “If Christ would have loved as the church loves today, He would have lived to a ripe old age.” Allender and Longman explain and describe three types of people: The Simple Sinner; The Fool; and The Evil Person. If you are struggling today with a difficult relationship – whether it is a spouse, friend, in-law or adult child, I would encourage you to read this wonderful book regarding forgiveness, love and relationships.
I LOVE Loving Boldly. I LOVE the concept of ‘calling people into relationship.’ It’s a scary, wild, messy and wonderful experience. I am fortunate to live with a man who enjoys the messiness of Loving Boldly also. It wasn’t always this way with each other. But, we are both grateful for our messy, technicolor relationship dance.
I’d like to encourage you. When you experience hurt from another individual, you have an opportunity to Love Boldly. You have an opportunity to call them into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with you. You have an opportunity to value them enough and value yourself enough to take the relationship to another level of intimacy.
But how, you ask? Here are some ways to go about ‘calling someone into relationship‘ when you are hurt.
When You Are Hurt
1. Examine Yourself
I absolutely hate it when I’m hurt, don’t you? I sometimes wonder if I’m being overly sensitive or if I “should” speak up. And – these are good things to think about, really. It is good to wonder, “Am I over-reacting?” “Am I tired?” “What part did I play in this pain?” “Did I let them know what I needed?” All of these questions will help us in our approach to the other person. Regardless of the answers to these questions, our pain brings with it an opportunity for deeper intimacy with another person.
It’s also important to think about how we may have done a similar ‘ouch’ to another person in the past. This provides gentleness, humility and empathy when we talk to the person.
2. Talk To The Person
In a relationship where trust is built, the ‘ouch’ can be discussed with the other person easily. Discussing the pain without accusing the other person causes both of us to grow. It makes us better. It makes us sharper. As Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
If you were brought up in a family where your feelings were ignored or shamed, this process can be scary. It might take practice to set aside the time to talk about the ‘ouch.’ I would encourage you to keep short accounts, however. Addressing issues quickly keeps the relationship ‘clean’ of resentments and misunderstandings.
3. Issue A Complaint
Issuing a complaint with your partner is one way of of discussing the pain. Dr. John Gottman states the research is clear about issuing a complaint is a healthy part of a happy marriage. When we don’t issue the complaint, we risk building resentment. Or worse yet, we risk building apathy.
Be as clear as you can be with your partner. You can use this simple format:
- I felt ______________ (name the feeling: hurt, angry, scared, disgusted)
- When you ________________ (name the behavior or statement)
- I would like ________________ (what do you want to happen instead)
4. Ask Questions
Take the time to hear from the other person what was going on for them. This can be a really short and quick process. Sometimes however, it might be a longer process. Your partner may need some time to think about what was going on for them. They might need to get back to you after they have thought about the situation. If they do need time, set a time to return to the topic. – Ideally, within 24 hours.
5. Give Forgiveness
Forgiveness! Well – That’s a longer blog than I have time for today.
In general, though, forgiveness is clearing the tab the other person has with you. It is an accounting term. “Bill Paid” You don’t owe me anything. Giving forgiveness frees us from continually being the bill collector in our relationship. They did ‘owe’ us. Yes. But when we give forgiveness, we cease waiting for the other person to pay up.
Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. Forgetting would only happen with a lobotomy. And forgiveness doesn’t mean we continue to expose ourselves to pain. We may have to set boundaries around behavior or attitude. We may have to limit our exposure.
There’s a Proverb I have been meditating on this year. “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven. But dwelling on it separates close friends.” Giving forgiveness allows us to move past the ‘you owe me’ and into focusing on our healing. We move towards the healing we need regardless of the other person’s ownership or lack of ownership for the pain.
Love prospers in us when we forgive. Love prospers in our community when we forgive.
Back to Maya Angelou – Allow the other person to show you who they are. A friend will take ownership and change the behavior. -They may not say the words, “I’m sorry.” But they will do “I’m sorry.” – You’ll see it. You’ll experience it.
A person who you may need to set boundaries with. will possibly say, “I’m sorry.” However, they won’t change the behavior. They won’t do ‘I’m sorry.‘ They will show you who they are for that time period in their life.
Will they ever change? Who knows? We’ll see. That’s part of the messy part of loving people. We love and call them into relationship. Some join us in a beautiful and messy dance of love. Some sit against the wall, refusing to dance. And some walk away.
I encourage you to Love Boldly. I encourage you to take a risk and go for the technicolor in your relationships. Let hurts help you make your Relationship Dance Sweeter.
The above isn’t professional counseling, of course. If you would want to meet with me and seek help in learning how to go about the process of learning what to do when you’re hurt, call me 530-268-3558 or email me at [email protected]. We’ll decide together if I’m the right therapist for you or if I can refer you to some of my wonderful colleagues.