Knowing how to skillfully own our mistakes and faults is one of the biggest keys to create and maintain successful relationships.
There's a lot of talk about how to forgive. But what about when you need to be forgiven?
Being human, it's inevitable that we occasionally hurt other people, even unintentionally.
How can you ask and receive forgiveness so you and the other person are free to move forward beyond blame or resentment?
Here’s the Holy Trinity I turn to when I need to ask for forgiveness:
THE FORGIVENESS TRIANGLE: 3 STEPS TO ASK FORGIVENESS
1. TRACK BACK + FORGIVE YOURSELF
In asking for compassion and forgiveness, we need to offer it to ourselves first.
When you hurt someone, pause to look inside. Get radically transparent. Track your actions back to see where this behavior originated.
What was the underlying cause? Where have you felt this before? Is it a pattern?
Last week, I unintentionally hurt a friend. Bowing in humility, I had to tease out my motivation. Identify the subtle reason I chose that specific action. It's tricky because often our mistakes are unconscious. You might have to do some digging to get to the root.
Quietly drop into yourself. Name your actions. 'Rinse' any shame or guilt and accept the ugly part of your shadow that acted out.
Fill in the blank: “I acted like this because I was…” “I realize that I did this because I was …” (e.g. selfish, angry, impatient, greedy)
Take a step away from the other person. Do your inner work to clean up your side of the street. Fully own your actions and understand why you did it. Then, acknowledge your humanity. You have a shadow.
2. HUMBLY, SINCERELY ASK FOR FORGIVENESS
Once you’ve owned your actions – ask for forgiveness as quickly and sincerely as possible.
When we've already made peace with your actions – we have nothing to hide and nothing to prove.
We don’t need to defend or be right.
With complete transparency and softness, approach the other person. Come from the heart. Explain what you did and why it was wrong.
I find it helpful to take 3 deep breaths into the center of my heart before I make a call or have a conversation. Physically, soften the front of your body, your shoulders, brow and jaw. Relax your eyes. Feel your heart soften, expand and glow. Envision the other person and yourself resting a shared space of love and light.
Words are potent. Use statements like:
“I think this is why I acted this way.”
“I was wrong."
"I am so sorry."
"I take full responsibility”
This allows the other person to feel your ownership of the situation. It's amazing how powerful: "I was wrong."can be. They can save a relationship.
I was recently talking to Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), author of “A Mindful Nation” about the feuding in congress. He said, “How often do you actually hear someone say: ‘I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.’ Not very often, right? Imagine if we all had the mindfulness to simply admit when we’re wrong.”
These are sweet words to the ego. Own your sh*t.
“You’re right. I was wrong.” creates miracles!
3. INTERRUPT THE PATTERN
Absorb your lesson. Integrate your shadow. Glean wisdom from the gemstone being offered.
Figure out what specific action you need to change and shift next time around. Wrap awareness around your actions to break the pattern.
Take a vow to stay accountable to the new pattern.
“I will start getting ready 15 minutes earlier than I think I need to, so I’m not late.”
“I will put away my iPhone after 6pm to pay full attention to my kids.”
Enroll a friend to hold you accountable. The aim is to move from judgment to understanding.
Become as honest, humble and compassionate with yourself as possible and other people will be as well. Forgive yourself for your discrepancies and shadowy corners that arise in your interaction with others.
Start transparency now.
What helps when you ask for forgiveness?
What have you had to ask forgiveness for?
What clear action step did you take to avoid repeating your behavior?