As the High Holidays approach, so does the time of self-betterment, healing, and repentance. Take some time to reflect on the past year during the next several weeks. This introspection might bring about some things that could have been handled in a better way or some things that could have been said differently. As is the practice, now is a good time to ask for forgiveness. Whether you are asking for or giving forgiveness, keep the following tips in mind.
1. Get specific. Take the time to reflect on what you are truly sorry for. Was it the way you approached the situation? Was it your tone or volume? Was it what you actually said, or was it that what you said was misinterpreted, resulting in your poor response? Whichever the case, remember to be specific.
2. Only apologize for something you did personally. Don’t blame the other person for your reaction. You are responsible for your own words and behaviors. Someone might irritate you, but that doesn’t give you the right to behave in a certain way or say something mean or cruel.
3. Get rid of “but you” statements in your apologies. Clearly identify what you want to apologize for and leave out what the other person said or did that might have sparked your response. If you blame the other person, they will not hear your apology and likely be defensive.
4. Write it out. Sometimes writing a letter can give you a chance to fully express yourself without pressure. Just don’t send your first copy. Give yourself a bit of time to read, re-read, and reflect on if you’re taking full responsibility for your actions.
5. Figure out the root of the problem. Often the process of forgiveness can start a bigger conversation surrounding the underlying issue that might have caused the event or disagreement in the first place.
For example, you and your partner have the same recurring fight about money. They’re a spender, you’re a saver. You want to apologize for your volume or tone and the names you might have called them, but you really want to get to the bottom of why this keeps coming up for both of you. Was money scarce for them growing up, so it feels good to be able to buy what they want for once? Are you out of touch with how much things cost nowadays because you don’t normally do the grocery shopping? Is this something your parents fought about, making you feel like them or someone you don’t want to be like?
Whatever the root cause, identifying the source of the issue will help you and your partner build empathy and trust, making it easier to understand each other and hopefully avoiding disagreement in the future.
6. Remember, forgiveness is for you, not for them. Sometimes the other person isn’t ready to accept our apology. In this case, we still need to be able to forgive ourselves. Often, in the heat of the moment, we don’t take in all the information that was happening at the time. We might have honestly just lost our cool at a bad moment. We are human and we will have human moments where we cannot control it all, and that’s okay. We need to take a step back sometimes to forgive ourselves, even if we can’t get an apology from someone. This allows us to move forward with less guilt.
Forgiving others (and ourselves) can be difficult to do on our own. JFS Orlando therapists can help guide you on the path to forgiveness. Call (407) 644-7671 or complete our online form to request an appointment today. Telehealth counseling appointments are available. Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurances accepted, and a sliding fee scale available for those who do not have insurance.
Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Director and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.