Hurting other people, especially those we love, is inevitable. Living with mental health issues like Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Depression, Addiction and other mood altering conditions, means we will also have to live with the fact that we hurt other people with greater frequency and sometimes with greater depth than those who are not. So if we are going to have healthy relationships, learning to acknowledge our slights and ask for forgiveness is essential.
How to Repair a Relationship
Acknowledge to yourself and the other person that you have caused them pain. None of us likes to feel guilt or face our flaws, so to avoid this we might try to justify, explain, defend or deny. However, the path of forgiveness requires a sincere apology free of conditions (yeah, but you…), excuses (I wasn’t well at that time.)
It does not matter if you hurt someone on purpose or not. It’s important to remember that pain is pain whether I accidentally stepped on your foot with the pointed end of my high heel shoe or purposefully pushed the pointed end of my high heel shoe into your foot.
When relationships have been badly damaged, apologies are often not enough. Attempts to amend the relationship must also be made. The Twelve Steps (a healing model traditionally used by those with addictions, but is a powerful healing tool for anyone who want to use it) asks us to:
- Make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. (Remembered all the people we hurt.)
- Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. (Made it right with them whenever we could.)
In essence, if I step on your feet and injure you, I must go beyond an apology and attempt to repair the damage. Maybe I rub your feet. Maybe I pay for you to see a foot doctor. Maybe I commit to never wearing high heeled shoes again. Maybe there is nothing I can do.
What If They Won’t Forgive Me
Forgiveness can not be demanded, only asked for. It is not something that is owed to you, it is a gift. The hurt person has a genuine right not to accept your apology or amends; which is hard to hear and even harder to accept. Depending on how badly they have been hurt, they may say they forgive you, but their inability to forget means they may not be able to fully let it go.
The fact is, some relationships can be damaged beyond repair or your current abilities to repair it. Maybe the pain has taken a toll and there is no emotional energy left to make the repairs. In that case, it is time to grieve and leave to avoid causing each other further pain and unhappiness.