Our lives are constructed of our relationships. So much of what we experience in the world comes through our relationships, and when they are hurt or broken, life can feel hurt and broken.
Whether it’s a friendship gone sour or a primary relationship on the rocks, there is one truth that can set you free in relationships.
When you experience frustration, anger, disappointment and grief in relationship, it resides within you. This doesn’t mean that you hold responsibility for another’s behavior.
In fact, it means that you hold primary responsibility only to your own mind and heart and the story you tell about that person and their behavior.
Practical Forgiveness in Real Life Relationships.
This concept is nice and good but how does it work for real?
Let me invite you into an experience of deep forgiveness that transformed my own life.
Many years ago, I was in a relationship that dissolved. At the time I believed that it happened out of nowhere, that the other person simply abandoned me by cutting me out of his life completely (no contact, no response, no simple human courtesy), and that he had discarded me to go on with their life.
I was devastated, hurt, and insecure.
I can’t tell you how deeply this wounded me.
I suffered for a couple of years, reliving all the wrongs that had been done to me by this other person.
Keep in mind, there was no infidelity, no extreme discord in the relationship, and no abuse. The other person just decided he didn’t want to be in relationship any more.
Here’s what I hope you can hear: it didn’t matter. I suffered.
I suffered because I believed the story. Did you read it above–the story of abandonment, uncertainty, insecurity, and feeling discarded? Wow! Those are some heavy plot lines. No wonder I suffered so deeply.
And I told that story, over and over to anyone who would listen. I didn’t realize that I was perpetuating my own pain by reciting my story and believing it, unchallenged.
None of my friends questioned my story. That’s okay. They probably didn’t know how or even what to say.
And so I suffered on.
The Insight That Changed It All
One day, I had a flash of insight–and understanding. The other person had moved on with his life. I was the only one continuing to suffer. I looked at the relationship and realized that even while I was in the relationship, I was creating stories. I made him into “the one–my soul mate.”
Being another person’s “one and only” is a huge burden. No wonder he ran! Being the one requires impossible understanding of all my insecurities and expectations and the inhuman ability to fill and fulfill every one.
When my story was exposed, I was filled with instant (literally, instant) compassion. I recognized my part in the split. I immediately extended forgiveness to myself and to my own suffering.
And then the magic happened, as I turned to forgive him, I realized there was nothing to forgive. He had not done anything to me. (I had done it to myself through my stories and expectations. I had kept my own suffering alive for nearly two years).
I apologized to him for never truly seeing him or who he really was (apart from my “soul mate / the one” story). It didn’t matter that he wasn’t in my life to hear the apology.
I was free of my suffering.
The End of the Story
A couple of years ago, the other person got in touch with me after years of no contact and said all the things I had wanted to hear at the time our relationship broke. He apologized for his part.
As I read his e-mail, my honest emotional response was “hmmm…that’s interesting.”
I knew I had freed myself because there was no emotional “stuff” left over.
I had given myself closure, healing and resolution years before it manifested in my life.
I’m not special. If you are hurting, or have been hurt, you can give yourself the same healing and closure. In fact, you are the only one who can give that to you. Sometimes we believe we need closure from another person, but the only thing we ever get from someone else is a new story to believe which is less painful than the one we currently believe.
Give a new story to yourself now. The new story you give yourself will always be more empowering than any other story you could be given by anyone else.
Don’t Wait to Heal Your Relationship
Heal your relationship with yourself now. Do this by investigating your story and your beliefs. Choose a different story that serves and supports you better.
If you need specific practical help on how to do this, I recommend The Work of Byron Katie. The Work is free at her site. You can download the worksheet and begin to do the Work for yourself.
Read her book Loving What Is and watch her facilitate the work on her YouTube channel so you can help yourself.
This is essentially what I did over the two years of my suffering. I did The Work–I just didn’t know what it was called or have a specific method of investigation. All suffering ends when we question our thoughts.