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Forgiveness ~ Step 3: Sharing Your Hurt With Someone

For Monbourquette, this is how we take the third of twelve steps in forgiveness. How do you keep relationships open in your family?

We are stuck

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”
Marleen ( ° ) is sitting on the edge of her daughter Louisa’s bed. The bomb exploded earlier that evening. She had long seen that her 12-year-old daughter was not doing so well, but she had blamed it on the onset of puberty.
After a remark about the untidy bathroom, Louisa had started yelling. ‘Do you really think I have nothing on my mind but that f*cking bathroom? Do you really think I have no bigger problems than that?’
And it all came out in fits and starts: the bullying on social media, exploring websites about being skinny, throwing away the contents of lunch boxes, …
Marleen is dumbfounded. She had always had a good relationship with her daughter. Why hadn’t she told her about this?
Louisa shrugs.
Her answer is another blow to Marleen.
“Because you are always ready with that good advice,” says the girl.

Shared sorrow is half sorrow, everyone knows that. So why do people find it so hard to share their hurt with someone?

In part this has to do with the shame we talked about in  step 2  . Once we come to terms with our shame, our failure and our vulnerability, it becomes a lot easier to talk about this.

But that leaves us with the question:  with whom can we share our hurt? We dwell on three possible interlocutors: the person who has hurt us, an ‘outsider’ and God.

A conversation with the person who hurt us

If we want to mend the relationship, this conversation is a necessity. Such a conversation is difficult, sometimes it ends in an argument. But any couples therapist knows it’s a bad sign when a couple never fights. Usually, never arguing means that one of the two partners completely effaces themselves, something that will take its revenge sooner or later. Even when the couple stays together, one does not experience the happiness of the deep intimacy between two people who are fundamentally different. Recognize that, struggle with it and learn to love being different again and again.
Even when the relationship is less important, but we want to change something about the situation, a conversation is necessary.

Such a conversation is not ‘just telling your truth’. It is an art that one can learn.

Anna ( ° ) sits down on the edge of the sofa, while her mother is busy with cups of coffee and biscuits.
“Child, sit down comfortably,” her mother says. ‘And have a cookie. I baked them myself.’
“Mom, I love that you bake cookies, but you know I’m on a diet.”
‘Ah, aren’t you good the way you are?! All this dieting stuff…”
“It’s not a hassle, Mom. And there’s actually one more thing I want to say, about the kids.’ Her mother is silent and is suddenly all attention. Her grandchildren visit her every Wednesday afternoon, and she enjoys this as much as the grandchildren themselves.
‘Kobe and Ibe are both lactose intolerant. If they eat things like cookies, they are hyperactive afterwards.’
‘Yes, but I also make sure that they eat their vegetables, you know. First the vegetables and then the biscuits, just like I did with you and Frank (Anna’s brother).’
“And that worked out fine for us. But not for Kobe and Ibe with their allergies. I’m already busy at work, and then putting two hyperactive guys in bed at night is just too much for me. I can’t handle that, I really need your help with this.’
“Aren’t you exaggerating, baby?”
Anna bites her lower lip. That’s how it always goes. Her mother is as dominant as she is loving, and that makes any conversation difficult. She wants to get up and leave it alone. But she has prepared this conversation with her husband Bram, she has to conduct it, for the sake of her children and herself.
‘No mom. Bram and our GP think the same way. I can get you a list of everything they can and cannot eat. It is important that this list is followed, not only with us, also at school, also by you. Without everyone’s help I can’t manage to have a quiet evening and night. Are you interested in following that list?’
Her mother sighs deeply.
“Well, give me that list then.”
Anna looks up in surprise.
‘You’ll see’, she says with relief, ‘There are also other healthy things on it that you can spoil them with.’

A good conversation starts… in silence.

Take the time to calmly examine the situation from all sides. 

What happened? What do you want to see changed? Where are your limits? Without condoning his or her behavior, you can try to empathize with the person who hurt you. Why would your spouse, child, parent, grandparent take such an attitude or say such things?
If you are a believer, you can take the situation into your prayer and ask God to give you insight and wisdom.

Then think about what you want to say.

In your message, you must first clearly state how you experience what happened. This is about you, so you make it an I-message too, not an accusatory you-message.
Second, you need to clearly state what your limits are. They are different for every person. What you find obvious may not be obvious to someone else.
It is also good to name the consequences of that behaviour: consequences for your well-being, consequences for third parties, consequences for the relationship, …
If such a conversation has already been held, but without result, it may be necessary to give a warning about the consequences of the behaviour.
We can illustrate this with the example above. Suppose that grandmother, despite conversations with her daughter and son-in-law, continues to spoil her grandchildren with cookies, then Anna is forced to say that she will have to look for another daycare for her children on Wednesday afternoon.

It is important in this conversation to see the other person as someone who is also looking for love and trying to do the right thing, just like you, and not as an enemy. It is also important that your desire to be listened to is as great as your willingness to listen to the other person.

But sometimes this conversation is not possible.

The person who hurt you has died or cannot be reached due to dementia, coma, etc. You may not be able to speak to him or her for other reasons: he or she no longer wants contact, it is not safe to be near him or her. come, you don’t know where he or she lives, or you don’t even know who it is.
Even then it makes sense to vent.
You can do that through a ritual or symbol.

Elise’s husband ( ° ) has been with his new girlfriend for over a year now. He repelled any attempt at conversation. She’d asked him a few times to get some pullovers that were still in the closet, hoping to have another conversation, but eventually he replied briefly that he didn’t need them anymore.
Elise feels humiliated and angry. First, she wants to throw the pullovers angrily in the garbage. But then, on the advice of the counselors in the growth group, she decides to have the conversation she needs, even if it is a soliloquy. She puts the pile of pullovers on the couch opposite her and says out loud something like: ‘You hurt me deeply, Koen. I must have done things wrong over the years, but I did see and love you. I’m really having a hard time not getting a chance to speak to you. It made me sick and I thought for a long time that I would never be happy again. But now I believe I can start again. I can be happy again. As a sign of that, I’m now taking your pullovers to a thrift store so they can get a ‘new life’. I let you go into your new life and I open myself to my new life.’ At the beginning of her monologue she feels ridiculous, but gradually she notices that it is more and more useful. She hears herself say things she wasn’t even aware of. And it’s more exciting than she thought possible.

Or sometimes writing an open letter, which is never sent, can provide healing. Again, this letter is not an outpouring of your anger, but a clear description of how you have experienced everything and what the consequences are for you, and all this in an openness to the other. You create space for the other’s answers, although they will never come.

Letter to the person who hit my sister on the night of December 23 I don’t know who you are. You drove on after hitting my sister. I wonder if you’re aware you hit her. It can hardly be otherwise, her bicycle was completely destroyed. You must have felt such a blow, even when you were very drunk. And the next day you could read it in the newspaper.
My sister has been in a coma for a few weeks now. My parents hardly leave her side, they take turns in the hospital, along with my grandparents and a few close friends. I don’t go that often. I have exams, I’m in my first year industrial engineering, and my parents tell me to focus on my exams, that Silke ( °) wouldn’t want me to be pissed off by this accident. I’m trying to study but can’t concentrate.
Silke’s friends also come by sometimes, supposedly to comfort them, but then they sit here crying all the time. Everyone looks for support from everyone, but no one can really offer support.
The doctors say that if Silke regains consciousness, and the chances of this happening become smaller by the week, she will probably be paralyzed permanently. And Silke enjoyed sports so much! Sports was everything to her! Sporadically, I think she shouldn’t wake up and then I feel guilty about those thoughts again. I sleep very badly.
I wonder who you are and where you are. Do you also sleep badly? Of course, you didn’t want to hit her, but you could have stopped and got help, right? Why the hell didn’t you do that?
I feel very angry with you. I hope you realize what you’ve done to us.
I’d like to know why you were driving way too fast that night. I’d like to know why you’re not turning yourself in to the police now and trying to make amends.
But until you do, I can only tell you how our lives have turned into a nightmare now. bram

A conversation with a wise and mild person

An open conversation with a ‘third party’ can also be healing, especially when the conversation with the person who has hurt you is not possible.
Naming your pain and hurt allows you to give them a place outside yourself. By talking about them, you take a little distance from them and look at them from a different perspective. You no longer coincide with your sadness.

It is best to take into account a few healthy principles to tell your story.

Limit yourself to the facts. Don’t make what happened bigger or smaller than it was. Also limit yourself to a description of your own feelings about this. Don’t judge the other. Also don’t judge yourself, don’t put yourself down by saying, for example: ‘I always do something like this.’, ‘I will never learn it.’

Of course it is also important who you choose for such a conversation. This person must be worthy of your trust and, while listening, help you further. A good listener is not immediately ready with good advice, but creates a safe space where you can find out. A good listener does not pass judgment, but helps you to see your story clearly. That is why he or she asks interested questions. How did you feel then? What exactly did you find most hurtful? How would you like that person to react? What do you need in that relationship? Do you think that person can give that? Why would that person have reacted that way? And so on.
A good listener is confident that you will find the right way out of this painful situation yourself, the way that suits you. He or she gives you space and security, or as priest-psychologist Maurice Bellet puts it: ‘When I know that I have been listened to, really listened to, then I get all the space and yet someone is there.’

A conversation with God who always listens

Your mind is constantly on the move. You are always analyzing, contemplating, daydreaming or dreaming. Day and night, it never stops. Sometimes you just want to stop thinking for a while. That would save you a lot of worry, guilt and fear. The ability to think is a great asset, but also a major source of concern. Don’t you inevitably fall victim to your stream of thoughts? That’s not necessary. You can bundle all that thinking into a prayer. Then you transform your inner monologue into an ongoing conversation with God, who is the source of all love. Break your isolation and know that there is Someone inside you who wants to listen with love to everything that concerns you and worries you. From: audio CD ‘Home’ (Lannoo/GMI Music, 2003)

Henri Nouwen invites us in the quote above not to be left with that jumble of hurt emotions. Emotions are a form of energy and cannot be suppressed. If we do this anyway, this energy will look for another way out. We get health problems, psychological problems or take it out on third parties.

Small, casual conversations with God-in-us, who is always there, take away the destructive power of such emotions. Often, as if by miracle, good ideas arise that offer a way out.

I have long been interested in meditation and prayer, and have come across the same thought among many writers: the richness of ‘continuous prayer’. Gradually I understood what they meant: not all the time frantically muttering pious prayers, but just sharing your own, ordinary thoughts with God. I was skeptical at first, but I decided to give it a shot anyway.
When I stood in my son’s room, where another bomb had exploded, I did not grumble against myself, but against God. When I had to put food on the table, put on a phone and put in the laundry in half an hour, I told God how it was all getting too much for me. When I got an all too long phone call from my mother, who didn’t realize how busy I was, I asked God how I should handle this now.
It became more and more natural. Even when I immediately wanted to lash out after my daughter’s sharp criticism, I found myself praying first, ‘God, I didn’t deserve this! Why does she say such a thing? What should I do now?’
I soon noticed that ideas came to me that weren’t there when I just ‘worried’ within myself about a certain situation. My monologues had really become a dialogue!
STEP 3 IN A NUTSHELL

Shared sorrow is half sorrow! Have a conversation with the person who has hurt you, or with a confidant, or with God-in-us who is always listening. Share the facts and your feelings. Do not judge the other person or yourself.
STEP 3 AT YOUR HOME  Train yourself to become a good listener.
The family is a wonderful training ground for this. Resolve yourself not to give any good advice at all, except when asked. Then the number of times you give unsolicited advice will decrease. After all, good advice needs not only a giver, but also a receiver.
Think of your spouse and children as capable people who will discover their own way, a way that may be different from yours.
As a good listener, you just ask them a few questions. You create a space for them in which they can tell their story. You listen to their story with warm empathy. Your example teaches your children a rare skill: to really listen. Tell me about what happened?
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
How did you feel then?
I wonder why <name> did that.
Is it the first time this has happened?
How would you like to handle it next time?
… A good listener takes in a lot of pain. In order to sustain this, we in turn need a listener.
Jesus invites: “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11,28)
If this helps you, you can look for an object that reminds you of this and that you regularly encounter: somewhere on a windowsill, in your handbag, in your diary or mobile phone, … If possible in your family, you can also look for such an object together. You can also print this Bible verse or other proverb and have it decorated by your kids.

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