Whether it was intentional or unintentional, sometimes we simply screw up.
There’s nothing more frustrating than when someone refuses to take responsibility for their behaviors and actions-especially when those behaviors and actions caused harm. While we’re often so willing to overlook and forgive an error in judgment or a transgression, we tend to hang onto it more tightly when the person who caused the harm refuses to own it.
So, instead of blaming, making excuses, getting defensive, ignoring it or assuming the other person doesn’t need an explanation or apology, take responsibility for the part you played (whether it was intentional or unintentional) and own it. Now, in a case of betrayal or shattered trust, it’ll take more than that but you’re off to a good start.)
Use Their Language:
Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts explains how there are different ways to communicate love and the secret to a love that lasts is found in communicating in the way your partner wants and needs to hear it. So, when trying to fix a major screw up, the same idea applies. It’s not about communicating your awareness, understanding or apology in a way that works for you but in the way that’ll resonate with the person you hurt. Do they need a kind gesture or a sincere apology? Convey your message in a way that works for them.
Remorse, Empathy, and Restitution:
According to the dictionary, remorse is deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed. Empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions. Restitution is an act of restoring or a condition of being restored. When it comes to fixing a major screw up, these three conditions work beautifully together and lay the foundation for forgiveness.
Now, sometimes an action can’t be fixed but is there something you can do to show your willingness to right the wrong? Here’s what these three together may sound like: “I’m so terribly sorry (remorse). I understand why you’d be upset. I get it and I’d be upset and hurt if you did that to me (empathy). What can I do to make it up to you?” (restitution).
Learn From It:
Our actions emerge from our current level of awareness. When we’re coming from a place of fear and lack, our actions will represent that. When we’re in a place of love and abundance, our actions will represent that too. A major screw up is most likely coming from a place of fear and lack. If it’s coming from love and abundance, it was most definitely unintentional.
In either case, learn from it to make sure you don’t do it again. Did you act without thinking? Fail to consider the consequences or the other person’s needs? Did an inflated ego or pride cause you to say or do something you now regret? Maybe learning from it and implementing a simple rule like: “Would I like that done to me?” If the answer is yes, do it and if the answer is no, don’t.
Self-Forgiveness and Paying it Forward:
Once you’ve taken responsibility for your actions and behavior, communicated in a way the person you hurt will understand, were remorseful, empathetic, offered restitution and learned from it, there are still a few more things you can do. Forgiveness takes time along with consistent effort to repair the damage done so have patience. The bigger the screw up the longer it can take because the person you hurt may be reeling from the shock, pain or anguish you caused and has to find new footing as they readjust to what they’ve just experienced by your actions.
This process is now about them as they learn what role they may have played, what changes they need to make to feel valued, safe and secure again. While they’re working through it, healing, changing and growing as a result of what they’ve just been through, now is also the time to work on self-forgiveness. Sure, you may feel guilt and shame for the pain you caused but that doesn’t help anyone.
Forgiving yourself allows you to use what you’ve learned to grow, become a more awakened and enlightened version of yourself, and use your new awareness to not only ensure it won’t happen again, but to help others by what you now see so clearly. Paying it forward by preventing someone else from experiencing that pain doesn’t mean you didn’t cause the harm, but may just be what’s needed to prevent someone else from causing or being the recipient of a painful experience. Paying it forward also contributes to the greater good and that’s what life is all about.
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute