When you screw up, what do you do to make amends? What do you teach your kids? Is saying "I'm sorry" enough? I know it is situational to a degree but I'm really trying to look at the big picture.
Recently, I was hurt by someone. Someone that I trust and respect and care about lied to me about something really trivial and unimportant. When I found out- when I caught them in the lie- I was hurt. Like most everyone, trust is a really big deal for me. When someone tells me a lie, I wonder about what other things they've lied about or will lie about.
Part of my concern is my own fault.
I used to lie. A lot. About everything. Big things, small things, made up things. I answered questions with lies, I butted into conversations with lies, I made up stories just to have something to talk about. I have no clue how many lies I told. It started sometime in elementary school and went on through high school. It was when I finally got some much needed help for the jumbled mess of my heart and head due to all that abuse history that I was able to stop lying and start really being honest. And honest, while intensely scary, felt amazingly good. And I trained myself to take the risk and be honest all the time. And it's the very best way to live life.
You can see why I might have a hard time trusting people when I used to practically be a professional at lying.
So when this person told me a lie, my first reaction was to set it aside. This isn't like me. I can be somewhat emotional in my reactions. But this felt like too big of a deal to spout off about. I needed to understand myself before I could proceed. So I took the time to do just that. Once I had myself sorted out, I went to that person and started a dialogue about what had happened.
I really wasn't too concerned about the subject that had been lied about- it was truly unimportant.
As the conversation progressed, it became clear that we could easily be in a stand off. They were defensive and I was trying to determine how far to push... but what was I pushing for?
That became the big question for me. What was I seeking?
I wanted an apology- and once I asked for that, I got it. I also wanted amends. I didn't want just words of apology. I wanted this person to make a choice that would be opposite of the previous choice. By choosing to lie to me, they chose to hurt me. Now I wanted a choice to help me feel secure in my relationship with them. I wanted- maybe even needed- them to choose something to make me feel better about "us."
It was kind of an "ah-ha" moment for me. I started to think about managing interactions with my kids. Often, conflict resolution includes separation of parties, time out, then coming back together to apologize and that's the end of it. There is no plan for going forward.
How do I teach my kids from this little lesson? How do I teach my kids the importance of repairing the hurt and also planning to avoid it in the future?
Repairing the hurt. Avoiding future hurts. Those are big words, big statements, aren't they? Do we teach our kids about the importance of those 2 things in relationships? Do we even know that in ourselves?
And isn't it easier to see it in ourselves than to give it to others when we screw up?
How often do we hold it in... bear a grudge... because the wounding party isn't doing "enough" to prove that they are truly sorry? How often to we feel justified in holding on to that ugliness rather than forgiving and letting it go? How often are we sitting up on our pedestals, waiting for the other person to realize what we need or want and come to us?
How often do we do for others what we want done for us? How often do we take the first step?
When I was a kid and a teen, I lied. I lied and I stole and I snuck around. I did a lot of things and part of why I made a lot of those choices was because I wanted to hurt people. Specifically, I wanted to hurt my parents. Inside, I felt worthless and dirty and broken. So I lied and snuck around and stole and yelled and fought and accused and denied because that was how my insides came out. I think part of me needed to push and push and push until I completely pushed them away. I was trying to prove that I was as unloveable as I felt. Thankfully, my parents- for any and all faults that they had and have- continued to love me. Sometimes they loved me in a soft and gentle way and sometimes, most times, they had to love me in a tough and hard way.
I look back and realize how much pain and anguish and hurt I caused. I wonder how my choices may have impacted the way my parents raised my brothers- how my choices ended up impacting the lives of my brothers.
To my mom and dad- I am so deeply sorry for the choices I made during those immensely difficult years. I know that our relationship has healed and that we are very close now. I cherish that and I know you do, too. I know that I had valid reasons for the choices I made- but I won't use those reasons as excuses for why I did the things I did. I'm sorry I lied to you, stole from you, broke your trust, and ran from the love and stability you tried to give me.
Funny that one little lie on one little day in my future could bring all of that home. Funny that one little lie could have such huge ripple effects.
That person and I are fine now. They apologized and repaired, I forgave. We move forward.
But I'm still thinking about how I'm going to teach my kids this lesson- if it can even be taught.
How have you taught your children to not only apologize but also make amends? And what about forgiveness from the hurt party? I think we've typically fallen into the general routine of mom or dad decide which kid was right and which kid was wrong and make the wrong kid say "sorry" after a time out. On a good day, we might push for "I'm sory for ______." But I think we need to teach more than that.
Words are empty without action.