Self-forgiveness isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s the only forgiveness you’re going to get. It’s hard enough when someone else does something hurtful or confusing or thoughtless, but I think it’s even worse when we’re the ones who’ve blown it, and forgiveness is withheld. There’s only so much you can do.
I’d say the first thing is to examine what happened. Were you in a bad place, were you feeling triggered or raw, or what, exactly, when you failed to show up the way you wish you had. Did you allow something to fester and boil underneath the surface? Were you feeling threatened or envious or desperate or cornered? Did something in the interaction force you to look at stuff about yourself you weren’t ready to face? Did you do something in anger, without giving yourself time to breathe and reflect? These are the kinds of questions we need to answer in order to know ourselves more deeply, and so we can show up in a different way the next time.
After you’re clear on what happened, communication is your next move. Share, in whatever way you’re able, and preferably in person, what you’ve come to understand about what happened. Tell them your understanding of how they’re feeling, and ask them if you’re getting it right. Ask them what they need from you to move forward feeling good about things. And let them know you’ve really examined yourself, and this won’t happen again in the future.
If you can’t get an audience with someone, then try a voicemail, and make it short but from your heart. If that also fails, you email, but reread your email and save it as a draft, and reread it again before you hit send. Make sure it’s an apology and not a justification. Be clear that it’s your responsibility, and nothing that the other party did or said. And say you’re sorry.
You will, or will not, be forgiven. That’s out of your hands, but what is in your power is the ability to forgive yourself. We are all human and we all make mistakes, that’s just the nature of this gig. No one shows up as their highest self in every moment. Sometimes something old and raw gets tapped and we lash out, or we’re feeling vulnerable already, and we start to feed the green monster of envy. Be as unflinchingly honest as you can when you seek forgiveness. This way the other party knows you really mean it.
If you aren’t granted the chance to communicate, at a certain point you’ll have to forgive yourself. It’s a sad thing when someone with whom we were once close, suddenly pulls away and refuses to remember who we are (assuming who we are is a kind and loving person in this friend’s life), you really have to give them some space and time. There are also times a person is so attached to their anger, there’s nothing you can say or do. Except send them love and compassion. There are certain things that are very difficult to forgive. Betrayal is a big one, and if you’ve betrayed someone, chances are you’re not feeling very good about yourself, and it’s time to look at that. But we don’t do ourselves any good when we marinate in shame and rage. Look at yourself honestly but kindly, pick up the pieces, and move forward with the intention of doing it better the next time.
If you’re in a place where you’re longing for forgiveness but it isn’t forthcoming, and you’ve done all you can to own what happened and say you’re sorry, at a certain point you have to let it go. Maybe time will bring the person back to you, and maybe not. Obsessing won’t affect the outcome. If you’re in a spiral like that, you have to pull yourself out, and the best way is to choose one thought over another. Once you’ve examined a situation from every angle, continuing to turn it around in your head doesn’t serve anyway. Pick the thoughts that strengthen you. If you need help with that, seated meditation is a good place to start. That’s where we learn we are not our thoughts, we don’t have to believe everything we think, and feelings are not facts. If you need help, I have meditation classes online. Sending you love, Ally Hamilton