What have I done? I’m sure you’ve admonished yourself for many small things. Like yesterday when I put the the container of milk into the cupboard and the box of cereal into the refigerator. Had some wires crossed there, hadn’t I? When I noticed my little faux pas my first response was “what did i just do” and “what is wrong with me?” Thankfully I have a second response and that was “take a breath, calm down, fix it, it’s no big deal.” But what if what we do is a big deal? What if we betray a spouse, a girlfriend, boyfriend, a child or a parent? What if we keep important information from someone we love? What if we make an error of judgement that costs us our job, loses us substantial amounts of money, or uproots our family? There are a long line of what ifs associated with this topic.
In the podcast you heard James Maddox sing “What Have I Done?” He was singing about something without specifically naming it that hurt his relationshp and his homelife. I hope this hasn’t happened to you. But for some of you it has. You have either hurt someone by something you’ve done, or you’ve been hurt by the behavior of someone. That hurt on either side of the transgression takes time to heal from. Sometimes no recovery ever occurs. Other times a partial healing takes place but with scar tissue that is always a reminder of the suffering. Pain from being wronged or in doing wrong is a given (unless you are robotic or a person who has no emotion and then I ask how can you enjoy life?). But it can be helped, and as I mentioned in the podcast there are a number of steps you can take to create the help. 1. Acknowledge to yourself first then to the hurt party as quickly as possible what it is you’ve done. Don’t delay. Don’t deny, don’t deflect. Own up to it. 2. Ask for forgiveness and work with the other person to create a repair of the situation. 3. Forgive yourself. Notice your internal dialogue. It is likely harsh against you and this is understandable. But make a pact with yourself to tone down the harshness by promising yourself that you will learn from what has happened. 4. Learn, truly learn, from your behavior. What I mean has to have depth. Notice what has been missing in your life, what you envy, what you deny about yourself. Learn about betrayal in your family of origin.How did your primary caretakers handle the situation? Did they work to repair it? Did they intervene between you and a sibling? Did they help you with something that may have occurred with a friend? How does that live now in your psyche? 5. Examine your openness in your relationships, your willingness to be vulnerable, your willingness to face your shame and embarrassment. As one therapist-teacher of mine said, “shame is a human emotion. We all have it, we can’t avoid it and although it makes us uncomfotable to the point of avoiding people, events and things in life, in the end it does tell us we’re alive. So make peace with your shame? 6. Truly learn. Take behavioral steps to reinforce your behavior and to reassure people close to you that it will not happen again. 7. Finally move on, but with one caveat. Sometimes moving on includes moving back. That means those around you who have been hurt may need to revisit what has happened. You may need to do so as well. Lose the attitude “There you go again. I thought we’ve moved on.” That comment means you haven’t repaired a thing. Remember be open, vulnerable, and willing to do what it akes to heal!
So there it is. Please respond with your stories, concerns, questions, and other contributions on the topic including music or links.
Our first musical set includes a youtube video of James Maddox performing “What Have I Done?” It’s followed by Linda Ronstadt and “What’ll I Do?” and Don Henley (Eagles) “Heart of the Matter,” a song about forgiveness.