t’s that time of year when family and friends gather together and spend 12 days of Christmas♪ decking their halls with boughs of holly♪, everyone filled with hopes of having a holly jolly♪ time. Then, things go sideways!
Suddenly, you find yourself asking, Mary, did you know♪ what child this is♪ that only wants a hippopotamus for Christmas♪? You’re praying, ‘God, please rest these merry gentlemen♪! They’ve imbibed a wee bit too much and claimed to see three ships come sailing in♪ on Christmas morn’.
Fractured. . .
. . . It happens! We lose our connections with others for a bevy of reasons—for everything from waking up to the fact that a person wasn’t truly a friend after all, to the death of someone we did indeed treasure. At this point in life, we come to accept that loss is part of the relationship package, especially when a death occurs.
Yesterday, a buddy from my stage career days was saying that in this past year, he and his wife have been attending an average of three funerals each month for loved ones, many of those elderly, and some not so much, such as a thirty-nine year old friend.
But, what about the fractured or severed connection with someone or a group because of a misspeak, because of ostracism, bullies, and so on? Are those connections lost forever? Can they be repaired? Are they worth repairing?
I recall a kind, generous elderly woman who, faithful to her church for decades, was eventually cast out of the congregation because she was unable to quit her sixty year old smoking habit. She had tried everything, medical and alternative, with no success. This grandma apologized, repented, did what she could to keep her connection to her church. The church was unforgiving, uncompromising in its constitution, punishing as it saw fit. Severing her from the group she identified with, the group that was part of her survival mechanism, took its toll.
So, how does one survive the break in a connection with others?
Let It Go! ♪
Disney’s LET IT GO by Idina Menzel
Losing connections because of dissention can be tough to deal with on many levels, including emotional and physical. When stuff hits the relationship fan, we’ll hear phrases like, it’s not worth it, don’t let it get to you, in order to move forward you need to let it go! These are well-meaning comments typically delivered with sincerity, but in reality, seldom are we able to simply toss aside the dissonance we’re experiencing because of another’s off-putting disposition, because of violence, because of betrayal…
Is it possible to truly let go of the miseries another person delivers our way? Can we learn how to let go of the hurt, pain, the ongoing suffering as a result of a wrongdoing we’re subjected to? Let’s explore some of our options to achieving well-being after a connection with another or others is severed or in a state of repair.
To forgive is to respond in a particular way to a person who has treated someone badly or wrongly.*
Forgiveness can be defined as the peace and understanding that comes from lessening the blame of that which has hurt you, taking your life experience less personally, and seeing the cost of holding a grudge. — Frederic Luskin, Ph.D.
As mentioned in The Art of Aging—Part XVI, we hear much about creating barriers with people in our lives, even going so far as to suggest terminating a toxic relationship altogether. What we don’t seem to be hearing much of these days is forgiveness, aside from a religious point of view.
We might very well be the losers when it comes to not forgiving others, for medical professionals* say that when we forgive, we positively impact our well-being, thereby experiencing—
• Healthier relationships
• Improved mental health
• Less anxiety, stress and hostility
• Lower blood pressure
• Fewer symptoms of depression
• A stronger immune system
• Improved heart health
• Improved self-esteem
Psychotherapist, interfaith minister, and author Nancy Colier, suggests that not wanting to ‘let it go’ or ‘bury the hatchet’ is because we “imagine that not forgiving is a form of punishment, a way of forcing the other to continue suffering, a way of being in control of a situation”, this especially so when “the one we believe caused us harm is unwilling to take responsibility for their actions or insists that they did nothing wrong”. We may even think that forgiving someone somehow implies that we are now okay with what the person did.
An adult student once asked me why I believe in forgiveness. I responded that for me, forgiveness means I’m not allowing another person’s actions to rob me of my personal power, that forgiving is an expression of self-compassion. I’ve had some serious forgiving to do. I’ve had to walk away from nasty people who were hell-bent on making my life difficult. Forgiving is not easy, and forgetting even less so, but looking back, forgiving gave me hope through the pain.
Not getting what we want is one of the main challenges we face when something frustrates us, such as when dealing with abandonment, dishonesty, or other difficulties… We often react with outrage or offense when normal, but difficult, life experiences emerge, making the situation worse by complaining instead of focusing our energy on how to best deal with the situation.*
When facing damaged connections with others, amends can be made via the kind of communication used. Communication that repairs connections includes knowing when and how to apologize.
Not that long ago, psychologists taught that an apology should include phrases like, I’m sorry that you feel that way, or I’m sorry that you’re upset. These phrases can be useful when one is showing compassion or lending support, but as an apology, they’re useless because there’s no ownership of wrongdoing.
Simply put, a sincere apology uses words like, I did wrong, I’m sorry, I will make amends.
Right communication with others and yourself when wanting to repair a connection means that one stops relitigating or renegotiating the past. Expecting or forcing a person to change their actions or words isn’t the end goal of an apology or of forgiveness.
Naughty or Nice?
It’s interesting to see the number of printed notices asking Canadians to BE NICE—to nurses, bank tellers, cashiers, secretaries, volunteers, social media posts… When did we lose our reputation of being ‘nice Canadians’?
Traveling in lands once under Soviet regime, new former-Russian friends would howl with laughter when telling me this joke:
How do you get 100 Russians out of a swimming pool? With machine guns.
How do you get 100 Canadians out of a swimming pool? Ask them nicely.
Our general communication skills have lost/are losing qualities such as kindness, grace, politeness, tolerance. It’s said that social media contributes to this because we can easily hide behind whatever our device spits out. We’ve become a finger-pointing culture, assuming the right to judge, and often judging without the necessary information that might otherwise leave our finger stubbed.
Negatives can infiltrate your brain so that pessimism reigns supreme. Some experts say that 95% of our thoughts are repetitive, and therefore, negative thinking can easily become an addiction.*
Once negativity settles into our speech, one can expect doom in a relationship. Right communication advocates suggest that we need to complement our lovers and friends. Pointing out their successes and positive attributes is so very important. Having trouble finding words for positive attributes? Click here for a link that might prove helpful.
While we as individuals are apologizing for our wrongdoings, so also do countries. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially apologized to China for inflicting “immeasurable damage and suffering on innocent people”.* Eighty years after WWII, Germany seeks Poland’s forgiveness.* Monaco apologizes for deporting Jews during WWII.*
In February of 2008, Australia issued its apology to aboriginal Australians*, while Canada’s prime ministers continue to apologize to our Indigenous people for how government has mistreated them.** This year, Pope Francis came to Canada to personally apologize for the ‘deplorable evil’ of Indigenous abuse in Canadian Catholic residential schools*.*
War Survivors Forgive, and Don’t!
Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who with her twin sister was subjected to Joseph Mengele’s medical experiments at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, not only forgives the Nazis for slaughtering her family, but further forgives Mengele, saying that forgiveness is the ultimate revenge.
At 101 years of age, former WWII POW Paul Kerchum describes his experience in the Bataan Death March of 1942, crediting his religious faith for his ability to forgive the Japanese, believing that hate was not something he wanted to foster.
Meanwhile, Filipino survivors forced into sexual slavery by Japan during World War II, seek justice*. Pearl Harbour survivors say they’ll never forgive and never forget!*
I was alarmed to learn that some SS officers and concentration camp guards remain proud of their participation in one of the world’s biggest atrocities. Following WWII, SS officers and guards returned to their communities as if nothing had happened, “nothing” still being the operative word today.*
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ♪
For many, Christmas is a time of sorrow, of regret, of brokenness. My father died on Christmas Eve. Grief and chaos overrode any tidings of comfort and joy♪ that year, leaving us with a sad memory to accompany each Christmas Eve to follow. But, Christmas is about hope, and that’s what we long for, what we hang onto.
As we set out to celebrate this special season, perhaps dreaming of a white Christmas♪, or wishing that special someone will please come home for Christmas♪, maybe being naughty and shaking a present or two underneath the tree♪ on Christmas Eve♪, going on a sleigh ride♪, or asking children if they want to build a snowman♪…
As it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas♪, rather than muddling through and being a mean Mr. Grinch♪, let’s unite with family and friends, set aside our anger and prejudices, and heartily jingle the bells♪ of forgiveness while counting our blessings♪ and wishing those we meet a very Merry Christmas♪!
Best wishes from me to you… Have yourself a very merry Christmas♪!
- Eight Tips On How To Apologize
- The Pain of Ostracization
- Severing Business Relationships
- Negative Thoughts and What to Think Instead
- Stuck in Negative Thinking
- Stanford Study on Forgiveness
- Harvard Health – The Power of Forgiveness
- The Basics of Forgiveness
- Mayo Clinic – The Art of Forgiveness
- Cambridge University – Wrongdoing and Forgiveness
- Forgiveness – The Gift We Give Ourselves
One thought on “THE ART OF AGING – Part XVII: Forgiveness—One of your favourite things?”
Thanks for this most informative blog.,.I will now ‘holster’ my resentments. Thanks Derek