In February of 2017 I decided to share some of my story that really (the use of ‘really’ is a massive understatement) hurt some family.
I apologized immediately – eager to move forward and seek healing together.
Unfortunately not all apologies are immediately accepted.
Or sometimes the apology is accepted but the work that goes into the healing is stunted.
It felt as though we were all traveling through life on a train and this new information caused one car (the one that held these family members) to derail, while the rest of the train continued moving on down the track.
For the following year there wasn’t much communication past the first apologies I made. We had moved to a new state so face-to-face conversations were no longer possible. I mourned the loss of relationships as I continued to pour my heart out through text and email only to be met with what felt like rejection after rejection.
A year passed.
We moved back.
Reconciliation is still a desire, I’m just not sure how or when to continue approaching each person.
I read ‘I Thought We’d Never Speak Again : the road from estrangement to reconciliation’ by Laura Davis.
The rest of this post will be everything that stood out to me from that book.
•Four possible outcomes in reconciliation :
1. Deep and transformative where both people experience closeness, satisfaction, and renewed growth in the relationship.
2. One person changes their frame of reference and expectations to open up whether or not the other person makes significant changes.
3. Much remains unresolved and ambivalent feelings persist, yet both agree to disagree and establish ground rules that enable a limited but cordial relationship.
4. No viable relationship is possible, so you find resolution within yourself.
•Reconciliation stories are works in progress. Within human relationships, nothing is ever final. We cannot be sure how things will end until both people are dead.
•The events you recount may be murky, but the feelings you both felt are real.
•Estrangements often start because we lack the communication skills to prevent them: we don’t know how to apologize, listen, or cool off and talk again tomorrow. Instead, a harsh word gets set in stone. Small slights are whipped up into unforgivable injuries. Jealousy festers. Misunderstandings are never discussed or resolved. An ultimatum, made in anger, comes due.
•People aren’t all bad, or all good. People may do monstrous things, but they can still have good qualities.
•In order to mature, we need the grounding life offers, the nourishment of people we love, and the wisdom only time and distance can provide. By cultivating the qualities that help us grow sweeter, rather than bitter, we can grow receptive to deep healing within ourselves and with the important people in our lives.
•When a relationship is damaged to the breaking point, it is natural to blame the other person. Most of the time, both parties contribute to the dynamics that end a relationship. While our role may not be apparent at first, with reflection and distance, we can usually recognize how our actions, lack of awareness, miscommunication, or insensitivity played a part in the relationship’s demise. As we dig beneath our defensive reactions and initial perceptions, new truths and perspectives often emerge.
•In clarifying how you want to respond to an estrangement, it is important to honestly asses your hopes, expectations, and reasons for seeking reconciliation. If you are seeking an apology that will never come, hoping for a personality change that would require a miracle, or trying to find a way out of facing irretrievable losses, your attempts at reconciliation will most likely lead to disappointment and further estrangement. Until you can approach an estranged relationship realistically, your hopes will probably be dashed again and again.
•What is the importance of this relationship in my life?
•Do I share enough history or common ground with this person to accept the difficult aspects of the relationship?
•Have I worked through my own pain and anger sufficiently to approach this relationship in a new way?
•Is there potential for this relationship to evolve into something new?
•Would the relationship be worth it to me even if it didn’t change?
•Can I be in this relationship and still feel good about myself?
•Do I have the time, energy, and resources necessary to rebuild this relationship?
•What result do I want from this interaction?
•What are the risks involved in confronting this particular situation at this time?
•If this goes badly, what is the worst thing that can happen?
•Do I have the inner resources to handle a disappointment if things turn out the way I want them to?
•Is this really the best time to do this?
•If I wait, might feelings or circumstances change?
•Reconciliation rarely occurs in one smooth upward spiral. There are breakthroughs, setbacks, moments of grace, and times of sheer grit and determination.
•Reconciliation is ongoing. You have to keep working at the relationships. You have to keep listening and being aware of the impact of your behavior.
•True listening is at the heart of reconciliation. Listening is the willingness to take in what another person is saying, even when it’s painful to hear. It is the acknowledgment of truth as it is, rather than as we wish it to be.
•Listening entails slowing down enough to discern the deep rhythms that resonate under the surface of what another human being is saying. It means stopping our mind long enough to take in another person’s truth, without judgment, defense, or rebuttal.
•Deep listening leads to an opening of doors. When our objective is to get to know another person, rather than to win, listening can lead to increased compassion, understanding, and kindness.
•Reconciliation requires both honesty and kindness. Kindness without honesty is not enough, and honesty without tempering if compassion, is not sufficient either. It is the marriage of the two that makes deep healing possible.
•When we accept another person’s inadequacies, compassion arises. Rather than see their weaknesses as something malicious directed at us, we begin to recognize them for what they are – human frailties.
•Sometimes just a little is enough. Cultivating a sense of gratitude can make it possible to appreciate, rather than resent, a limited relationship.
•When we honestly inventory our own intentions, actions, and motives, we sometimes realize that we behaved honorably and did the best we could under the circumstances. Other times, our self-assessment leads us to face painful faults. Sometimes the mistakes we made have less to do with what we did at the time of an estrangement and more to do with how we have responded since then.
•The words ‘reconciliation,’ ‘forgiveness,’ ‘compassion,’ and ‘acceptance’ are often used interchangeably, when in fact they are not at all synonyms.
•The perpetrator must show the five R’s : recognition, remorse, repentance, restitution, and reform.
•We live in a “feel-good” culture that encourages us to search for easy answers, speedy solutions, and the immediate cessation of pain. Because of this, in-depth healing from deep emotional wounds has fallen into disrepute. As a result, what passes as forgiveness is people flossing over their grief, anger, and pain, in an attempt to generate false sense of forgiving.
•The motivation to forgive prematurely often comes from a desire to avoid the pain of facing the harm that was done.
•Reestablishing trust after it has been broken is a gutsy, difficult challenge, and those who accomplish it are rewarded with a deeper sense of compassion, restored faith in human decency, and renewed bonds of love.
I hope you found encouragement in your own process of reconciliation.
Grow + heal + love well,