In our life we have the opportunity to make our own choices and create our own individual happiness (or misery) most of the time. Unfortunately, choosing our parents and our family is not one of the choices we get to make. This choice is made for us by someone else.
Unless we were raised by a pack of wolves in the forest, we were most likely all raised with some semblance of parents. (The term "parents" may include such people as grandparents, aunts and uncles, foster parents, or some other adult supervision beyond the people who donated their DNA to beget you). For many of us, it wasn’t really "parents" in a plural sense but rather singlely, mom or dad.
The point being, that none of us were born and left to fend for ourselves from day one. We more than likely had some help along the way (even perhaps from a pack of wolves).
Some people were born into horrific situations where poverty, drugs, and physical and/or sexual abuse prevailed. Others were born into a more stable home environment but needed to deal with more subtle childhood issues such as peer pressure, overbearing parents, academic demands and the stress accompanied by these demands, and anxiety derived from the fear of failure.
For most people, their childhood is a mixture of both good and bad memories. Each one of us has had to overcome our own particular set of obstacles and hurdles incurred during the journey of "growing up". The crosses that we each bear are individual and unique regardless of whether or not we shared the same household with 12 siblings or were an only child.
Overcoming these problems is what built our character and helped to define the person we are today. We learned how to survive and cope from our unique environment and individual situations. We learned about other people and took management skills away with us to our adult life.
My mom recently came to San Diego to visit me and my brothers. I don’t get to see her very often but spending time with her reminded me of the times we spent together as a family when growing up. On the one hand, I recall that my early family life was an extremely challenging time for me and my siblings. But yet on the other hand, I consider myself very fortunate to have been placed in an environment where I could learn so many "life skills" early by overcoming adversity that I despised.
Today, I find so many children who live in overly protected environments. I often wonder whether or not they will develop the survival and management skills that will help them succeed later in life. These kids may be "book smart" but are lacking in essential "street smarts".
Children are strongly influenced by their parents, family, friends, school teachers, athletic coaches, and of course their environment. We consciously and unconsciously learn from the people and places that surround us.
During my recent visit with my mom, it occurred to me that she taught me a skill that I have been using for most of my life that has helped me to avoid stress and anxiety and helped me to live a richer and fuller life.
You see, mom has an incredibly short memory when it comes to transgressions and/or mistakes. If you have done something to wrong her (not necessarily on purpose but in her eyes nonetheless), she tells you about the way she feels, will give you an opportunity to explain your actions, allows the problem to come to a resolution, and then she forgives you in the absolute. She will never bring it up again in conversation...ever!
Although it sounds like a simple quality it is actually a more complex three-part process:
1) Confrontation. When a perceived problem occurs, she will immediately talk directly to the individual who she believes wronged her, tells them exactly how she feels and why she feels this way. Although she might consult the advice of others she knows that the problem is between her and the other person and will initiate a conversation with them.
Compare this approach to the person who feels they were wronged but harbors those bad feelings for days...weeks...months...years...or even decades. The resentment and anger continues to build and build over time causing stress and anxiety in the person who was "wronged".
2) Explanation. She allows the "offender" to state their case exactly the way they believed it happened.
She doesn’t interrupt but allows you to explain fully and actively listens along the way by asking questions and clarifying statements. Many times the "offender" was completely unaware of their actions and the effect that it had upon another individual.
3) Absolution. All sins are typically forgiven - perhaps upon the promise of never repeating the mistake again. The issue is forgotten forever, never to be brought up again.
Compare that to people who will continue to bring up the past as if history can somehow be changed. The transgressions of the past will forever become potential ammunition for arguments in the future.
True forgiveness is powerful...not only for the person you’re forgiving but also for yourself...without it...it’ll continue to eat you up from the inside out and eventually destroy you from within...
I try very hard to manage my personal and professional relationships using the same approach as mom taught me and it seems to work fairly well (although steps 1) and 3) are really hard sometimes). I feel better by not harboring bad feelings...and my friends, colleagues and loved ones know exactly where they stand with me at all times.
Even if our childhood left us with some unfulfilled expectations and painful memories, we can choose to see the good rather than the bad. It’s our own decision. We can choose the path of learning. We can choose to forgive...
...it’s time to let it go...
Thanks to mom for reminding me of this important life lesson and thank you for your continued support of OptiFuse, where we learn from our past to create a better future.
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