For a few years now I have been presenting workshops and sharing tools to help people press through challenging situations. My audiences have been quite diverse. The attendees have included women’s group presidents, senior citizens, real estate professionals, female prisoners, Bar Association members, night life adult education students, home health aides, teachers, fundraisers, cancer survivors, corporate management leaders, and chamber of commerce members. Basically, folks from all walks of life.
As I discuss stress triggers that tend to keep us from moving forward, one topic typically creates more buzz from the crowd than others. That is “letting go.” Letting go of what? Anger, resentment, the desire to be perfect, the questions of why and when, high expectations, things we can’t control? etc. As we dig further during group or one-on-one sessions, I am amazed by the amount of people hurting due to a broken relationship. The brokenness comes in many forms, but usually from a falling out with a close friend or family member.
I am reminded of a woman in her fifties who had not spoken to her brother in over ten years. He lives in another state with his wife and children. I asked her what caused the strife between them. With watery eyes she couldn’t remember exactly, she just knew they didn’t agree on something…whatever that thing was. As I questioned her more about the situation, I felt like she was ripping open a wound that had been scabbed over for years, but never healed. Obviously there was pain there but it was as if she dismissed it from her mind until she was forced to deal with it. As we continued talking, she made the decision to contact him. Fast forward a few months, they are in contact and are trying to rebuild their relationship.
I have experienced brokenness in a close relationship and completely understand the feelings associated with it. The conviction that I was right and I will not back down, the frustration that I can’t attend an event because that other person would be there, the sadness I felt because I couldn’t share the happy news with that person. The thoughts I told myself: it’s for the best, I don’t want to fight, it’s better this way, we can never get past this, I just don’t want to deal with it. Yet life goes on. The first birthday arrives and still not speaking. No card, no cake, no call. Holidays, graduations, kids birthday parties, anniversaries, special dinners come and go and the absense of that person becomes the new normal. My truth: even though they were not physically there, it didn’t mean I didn’t want them there. I wished we could work it out. On some level. On any level. Somehow.
There are many levels of brokenness in relationships. Obviously if someone is causing you physical or emotional harm, then detaching and removing yourself from the situation might be a healthy and necessary thing to do. If someone voted for a different condo association president than you did and you cut them out of your life, there might be an opportunity for restoration here.
There are going to be times when people let us down. That’s a fact. They might reveal your darkest secret, they might lie straight to your face, they might not get you a cup of cocoa when they get one for themselves, they might criticize every move you make, they might party too much at that important event, they might try to make you feel less than, they might have unrealistic expectiations, they might say cruel things behind your back, they might disagree with everything you say. And so on and so on and so on…
What if you decided to extend an olive branch to that person to help you move forward? A short email saying “Hope you have a nice birthday.” “Thinking of you this holiday season.” Or send a funny card that reminded you of them. Or pick up the phone and say “Hello. I think it’s time we talk.” It is your choice to decide how close you want to get once a reconciliation begins. You might not want that person to be in the delivery room when you are having your second kid, but you may agree that it would be acceptable to attend the same function together. It would be okay to say hello to each other at your cousin’s baby shower. You might suggest that you avoid heated topics that typically end up in an argument. You might agree that no smoking or drinking is allowed around your children. You might need to vent and tell your side of the story without interruption. You might need to refrain from telling this person anything personal. You might need to quietly remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation. Anything to help you press forward.
If you extend an olive branch and the response is positive, that’s wonderful! But if you don’t receive the response you had hoped for, just know you tried, you reached out and did your best to open a dialogue and mend the relationship. I know when I have reached out, there is a sense of relief and stress lifted from me. My shoulders relax and there is some resolve to the situation. I can’t control other people’s reactions or response, but I know that I can move forward knowing that I tried to make peace.
With the holidays quickly approaching, a reconciliation on any level could be the best gift you could give someone else and yourself. Never know what will happen when you open up the lines of communication. That’s actually a priceless gift. It’s time.
Many blessings to you!