Forgive and Forge Love

We all want to be forgiven by others, and yet, as aforementioned, the act of forgiving ourselves is often quite tricky. Forgiveness has been convoluted over the eons, to the point that we have come to believe forgiveness is an external force.

Rushing in with a parade of apologies to quench the fire of ensuing negative emotions, rarely leads to a positive outcome. More often than not the results are: petty arguments, passive-aggressive behavior, increasingly grandiose displays of just how “sorry” you are…And when I say “sorry”, I mean sorry – as in, “Your sorry ass is trying way too hard. Give it some time, honey,” not, “Gosh, you’re really, sincerely sorry. When are they going to hurry the hell up and forgive you?” If I sound like a hard-ass on this issue, please understand I’m a sweetheart, but I specialize in tough love when we work against ourselves. And, I have spent a lot of time being really sorry, so I’m coming from a place of knowing (all-too-well).

Here’s a classic example, of what could have been a complete derail in my life, had I not recently learned about the internalness of Forgiveness:

The Scene: Dayjob

The Culprits: My Ego/My Boss

The event that transpired was a typical work scenario: I made a little slip-up, a human mistake; which, within a matter of minutes, in an environment where everyone takes everything far too seriously, had snow-balled into my boss telling me in no uncertain terms that I was indeed not

courtesy of Calligraphuck

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with knowing one’s limitations, admitting to one’s mistakes, and learning from them. I had groveled before my boss, but he was afraid of potential fall-out from my err; and his fear was causing him to cross the line from letting me know how very much he didn’t appreciate it – to really letting me have it. I apologized profusely, and intentionally, and let him know this mistake would certainly not be made again…before running to the bathroom to cry.

It’s hard to hear one isn’t Awesomesauce…and worse, it’s really difficult, when you’re emo like me, to get a verbal lashing. After the last tear fell to the floor, I gave myself a good pat on the back for actually crying (that’s not really my style – in the past, I would have held those in like venom), dried my eyes, and set out to make sense of the events. Here is what I concluded:

  1. I was now pissed off. Screw that guy – I’d just pack my crap in a box and let him deal without all of the good I bring. It’s totally unacceptable to treat me that way. But wait, it occurred to me (rapidly, thank god!), I’ve been here before – karmically speaking – I’ve had this boss, this experience again and again and again – in this lifetime. I’m the only common denominator, so there MUST be some lesson I need to learn. I put the filing box of crap away, returned to my Buddha-state of mind, and got back to reflecting on the situation…
  2. In order to continue working with him, honesty was necessary. I had to make sure he understood I was hurt, I needed to let him know I understood his upset, and that his delivery method is unacceptable. And an apology would be super-nice. In fact, I’d be really receptive. This didn’t go over well. In fact, I was floored when he expressed that he would never apologize, and that he was essentially disgusted at my attempt to get in the last word. Upon leaving his office, I cycled back to the top (see “Screw that guy…”) of the process. But in the short walk back to my office, I realized in looking for an apology from him – I was actually looking for his Forgiveness. (Insert light bulbs, cherubs with harps, and sunbeams bursting through clouds – here). What? Did I just…say…I did. Yup.
  3. So now I am really getting how this Forgiveness thing works. Yes, an apology would be awesome, if he had it in his heart – but he didn’t, and that’s his issue – not mine. My issue is that I hadn’t gone to the trouble yet in all of my self-pity, angst over the clusterfuck, and the self-righteousness about my boss being an a-hole…to forgive myself for being human. So, I repeated a simple mantra of Forgiveness that I learned from Denise Duffield-Thomas (she’s fantastic for those of you who don’t know her yet):

Hand over heart, I say:

“I forgive you, I’m sorry, and I love you”

That’s it. Forgiveness done.

After I forgave myself, I was entirely refreshed. And, for the first time, was able to see my boss as a human too. Honestly, I don’t appreciate the manner in which he spoke to me – and I do know he heard me when I set that boundary. However, rather than think about what an awful person he is for his behavior, I suddenly had so much compassion for him: what it must be like to be always jumping to the worst-case scenario, to be threatened by a fellow human exposed and vulnerable, asking for an apology. It occurred to me I haven’t a clue what his life has been like. And, for shits-and-giggles, I repeated the Forgiveness Mantra, only this time – I sent that forgiveness, apology, and love out into the Universe to reach him.

Hand over heart:

“I forgive you, I’m sorry, and I love you”

That’s it. Forgiveness done.

This was an act done in silence, done because I felt compelled by compassion (not actually for shits-and-giggles). Expecting absolutely nothing in return. By all accounts, in over five years the man hadn’t apologized to anyone. Within a half hour of sending out that forgiving energy, I received a call. He called, and while he didn’t say “I’m sorry”, the man extended the proverbial olive branch by acknowledging how, perhaps, if he had done things a bit differently, the clusterfuck could have been averted. Then he told me to go home early and have a great weekend.

The Apology/Forgiveness Exchange, when evolved, and fully-functional – is all about love. Love for yourself, love for another. And compassion for our very human nature, as well as that graceful acceptance that clusterfucks happen.

Mother Theresa knew what she was talking about.

The Anatomy of an Apology

It’s definitely not a competition, so let’s not take the spirit of this quote the wrong way. Apologizing isn’t about being “first” at anything – if that’s your intention or motivation, be sure to follow-up with me next post on forgiveness. And, if it is, you’re human – it’s a certitude that there are times, particularly when dealing with someone who’s just completely burned you – that ‘killing them with kindness’ is all too tempting. But let’s face it, ‘killing them with kindness’ is a dolled-up way of reciprocating the dickheadedness. So, that we’re all in honest agreement – and on the same page about that bullshit – I’ll get on with the Anatomy of an Apology.

Apologizing is, for the most part, in our culture, a hollow act. Sorry if that’s offensive (see what I mean? I’m not sorry at all…); but it’s completely true. Children are raised to apologize for developmentally appropriate behavior before they are developmentally even able to empathize. A true apology, in its sincerest form, comes from the ability to empathize with the one we’ve slighted, offended, or outright been a douchetard to – and say we’re sorry. Of course, my bright readers, friends, and clients – you know this. But wait, there’s MORE!

An evolved apology looks something like the above. It isn’t about who is right/wrong – or weighing in on the douchetard heavyweight scale. You know you’ve reached a level of maturation and generosity of spirit when you’re above that – because you truly do value your relationship more than your own ego. This is the point at which you are a collaborator, a problem-solver, and focused on a greater good than being the ‘winner’. And, I know, dear readers, friends, and lovely clients – that you already have been here too. You’re so fucking awesome!

When I read the second sentence of this image above, this is where there’s something missing, in my experience. I combed the inspirational boards on Pinterest, weheartit, etc. (frankly, my search for a visual representation of the kind of forgiveness I want to share with you was exhaustive) to no avail. Here’s the reframe:

“It just means you value your relationship with your self, more than your ego” ~ Tara Michelucci

That’s my spin on it folks. You are SO much more than the mind-chatter going on inside, you are more than the sum of your experiences, you are more than your ego. I’m sure many of you have lovely egos – you probably work at keeping it healthy and have a loving relationship with it. And that there is my point. A dysfunctional ego (which we all have, it’s a matter of reigning it in, and working with it), is the root of our problems. So when you apologize, let your motivation be empathy, creative solutions and cooperation, and always, always – strengthening the relationship between your Self and your ego.

Furthermore, when you do apologize, with all of those beautiful motivations and juicy rewards – understand that your apology is independent of forgiveness from anyone other than your Self. And, since you are already apologizing – you have express forgiveness from your Self. Not everyone is going to forgive you when you apologize. That doesn’t make your apology less worthy, nor does it make them less worthy of receiving the apology.

Like I said, we have all been conditioned with some fundamentally dysfunctional, illogical, and flat-out erroneous concepts of the apology/forgiveness exchange. That’s my breakdown of the Anatomy of an Apology – in it’s most intentional, healthiest form. Next topic, Forgiveness.

In the meantime: What are your ideas about apologizing? How does it work/not work for you? I would love to know your experiences with apologizing – both successes and “failures”.

Warmly,

Tara