As Valentine's Day approaches, I find myself thinking about the topic of forgiveness.
The Bible tells us to forgive others so that we ourselves may be forgiven, and some spiritual teachings say that forgiving others is more a matter of forgiving oneself.
At times our behavior can unintentionally trigger negative reactions in others. But when we're intentionally hurtful to others, it's often because we're feeling hurt and desperate for understanding about our own pain.
This doesn't excuse our behavior, but understanding our intentions can be key to getting our needs met in ways that are loving and compassionate.
Sometimes we end up feeling trapped in the past, and we beat ourselves up with guilt, and we beat others up with our anger. Here is a "prescription" to help unravel this pain from past regret.
The next time you start judging yourself for something you think you've done wrong, stop. Ask yourself what you were feeling and needing at the time you acted as you did. This is what I call self-compassion.Once we identify our feelings and needs, we can better express them without sending blame and judgment to the listener, and we also are more able to hear their feelings and needs without reacting in a defensive manner. The same holds true for others: When they feel heard and understood, they are more likely to be willing to hear our side of the story in a compassionate way.
The following are six steps to requesting forgiveness with the language of the heart compassionate communication:
1. Guess which feelings your behavior triggered in the other person, and which of their needs your behavior failed to meet.
Remember that feelings are not thoughts or judgments, and needs are common to all human beings and they never refer to any specific person or any specific action.
For example: When you saw me leave the theater before the movie ended, did you feel confused and worried because you wanted to know where I was going and why?
2. When the other has verified your guesses, tell them how you feel, having heard their pain. For example: When I hear how worried you felt, I feel regret that I wasn't able to speak with you before I left.
4. Ask them if they are willing to hear what was going on in you when you acted as you did.If they are not ready yet, repeat steps one and two until they are.
5. When they are ready to hear your side, tell them how you were feeling when you did what you did, and what needs you had that you were trying to get met at that time.
For example: I was feeling so sad that I wasn't able to speak, and I just needed to be alone to pull myself together.
6. Ask them to tell you what they heard you say to verify that they did not hear any judgment or blame and ask them how they feel now, having heard your pain.
Chances are good that if you follow this prescription, without mixing in any words of judgment, blame or demand, both of you will feel a sense of deepened connection and love for one another. Happy Valentine's Day!
To learn more about the language of the heart, join the compassionate communication practice group, which meets from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every second and fourth Monday of the month at Payson Center for Spiritual Awareness, 107 West Wade Lane, No. 2, Payson.
The group is facilitated by Dr. Donna on a love offering basis.For more information, call 474-4654.
Send your letters or comments about this column to: Ask Dr. Donna; Payson Roundup, P.O. Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547 by the first Tuesday of the month.