This is a time of year when we hear a lot about peace and forgiveness. These are important values and vital to our ability to function in society, in our communities and with those we care about the most. But often it is very hard to admit wrong-doing and ask for forgiveness, when we have been the one who has behaved poorly.
We’ve all seen how failure to admit wrong-doing and mistakes can impact public figures. Martha Stewart, for example, went to jail, not for her original actions, but for trying to cover them up. On the news this morning, I heard another case of public figures who had mishandled allegations of sexual abuse. They are now the subject of a grand jury investigation—not for their mishandling of the allegations, but for their attempts to cover up (with lies and by perjuring themselves) their original mismanagement.
We’ve all made mistakes and blunders, have forgotten or failed to act at important moments or unintentionally or callously hurt others at some point or another. Sometimes our errors in judgment are small and relatively inconsequential, while at other times, such as in the mishandling of sexual abuse allegations, there are considerable consequences.
Shame and embarrassment can cause us to try to hide our mistakes and errors. But hiding doesn’t solve problems and often makes them worse. It also doesn’t result in forgiveness or a sense of peace that comes from having confronted and rectified past mistakes.
Whether big or small, facing wrong-doing is the key to moving on.
- If you’ve acted poorly and are embarrassed or ashamed about your conduct, rather than hide, approach the situation.
- When you approach, you’ve got to do it all the way. This means facing anyone you’ve wronged and sincerely apologizing.
- Make efforts to repair any damage you’ve done. Ask yourself what you can do to improve the situation and do it. It’s not always possible to fix problems when we’ve made mistakes and done wrong, but making a real and significant effort to do what you can to make amends, fix problems and be a part of solutions is part of the process.
Make no mistake: this process is painful, especially when your action was egregious and you’re unable to truly fix the problems that resulted. But, going through the pain and acting with sincerity and dignity is the path to self-forgiveness, moving on and maybe the forgiveness of others.
Young couple photo available from Shutterstock.