Okay, it happens to us all. We screw up and cause trouble. Not on purpose, hopefully, but the harm is real, nevertheless. Whether our offense was due to impulsivity, neglect, or anything in between, the end result is that someone else was troubled or disappointed because of what we did, or didn’t do.
Without the magic of a delete button, we are forced to deal with ambiguous and messy situations, trying to weigh them and sort them out, trying to determine what is fair and what is right and, perhaps, what is loving. On a very simple level, we can take care of financial losses that might have been involved. That is basic, straightforward, and hard to argue with (but not impossible, for sure). But what about the emotional aspect of the situation? That is much harder to sort out.
So what are our choices at that point? The nature of our relationship is obviously a factor. The more invested we are, the more likely we are to make up for the harm, smooth things over and make things right, as best we can. Such situations may contain a practical aspect, if something tangible was involved, as well as an emotional one.
To make amends is to “provide compensation for a loss, damage, or injury of any kind”. If there has been an emotional impact, how does that get factored in to the equation? There’s no right answer in all of this, but extending ourselves with a degree of generosity can’t hurt. Maybe even thinking outside of the box. Lifehacker recounts the following story:
“In 2006 I heard NPR’s Scott Simon tell the story of how his father, upon complaining to his favorite shaving cream company that they weren’t delivering the 90 shaves per can they promised, received a crate full of cans of shaving cream. ‘I think my father may have been buried with the last few cans,’ Simon says. If you unfairly compensate your customer to their benefit, your company’s actions may one day become the stuff of legend”.
And what holds true in the corporate world sometimes holds true in the personal as well. Let’s remember to let others know that we get it – we understand that they were troubled, in some way, because of us . . . and we wish it wasn’t so. We can say the words, but we can also put some muscle behind the sentiment by doing something to make the point. So the next time we find ourselves on the trouble-making side of a relationship, let’s make an unmistakable gesture of apology. The more memorable the gesture, the more likely it is to restore a sense of good will, to mend the rift, and end the tension.
If you’d like to focus on strengthening your relationship, please consider joining us for our annual Renewing your Relationship program, which starts on Valentine’s Day — Feb. 14th. We’d love to have you join us!
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 20 years.