Tag Archives: Art

How Do You Find Happiness?

Happiness is defined as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? So what makes happiness so hard to attain?

One of the common reasons we find it so difficult to find happiness is due to our perception of what it really is. Our ability to be happy depends on how we define it.

For many, happiness is defined by what has been achieved, what has been accomplished, or material things we have obtained.

While these things can contribute to the feeling of being happy, do they really bring us true happiness?

So what is happiness? Where does it come from? How do we achieve it?

• Live Our “Best Life.”

For starters, we can begin by living what I like to call our “best life.” This consists of being the best version of ourselves we can be. It involves self-acceptance and no longer comparing ourselves to others. Living our best life also includes no longer using things to measure our happiness, but focusing on the feeling. Practicing mindfulness can also help us achieve happiness. In doing this, we can fully experience the moment and learn to engage with each moment on its terms, taking things as they come. When we are able to accept things for what they are, we can be happier.

• Practice daily gratitude.

Gratitude determines our attitude. As we practice gratitude, it eventually becomes second nature. We become able to find the beauty in small things and appreciate all life has to offer.

• Learn the art of letting go.

When we learn to let go, we find the path to freedom. By learning to let go, we are no longer held captive by our past or lingering negative emotions.

These are other things we can do to get ourselves in a feel-good mood.

• Smile.

Everyone knows a smile is contagious. If you’re feeling down in the dumps, force a smile and keep smiling. If you don’t give that feeling of wanting to smile, you will eventually get the giggles from looking so silly.

• Smell something that makes you happy.

The sense of smell is very powerful and can trigger several moods and reactions. Why not smell your way to happiness? Sniff your favorite flower, inhale your favorite fragrance, or indulge in the aromas of your favorite food. When I’m feeling down, I tend to smell lavender. I not only enjoy the smell, but it also has some calming and relaxing properties.

• Do something good for someone else.

If you can’t put a smile on your face, put a smile on someone else’s. Doing a good deed will often result in that good, bubbly feeling of joy. When you’ve made someone’s day, how can you avoid a smile?

• Do something you enjoy that you haven’t done in a while.

Remember that feeling of complete happiness when the wind blows in your face as you swing on a swing, or when you play a good game of baseball, or make a nice batch of cookies? Well, get up and get moving! There is no pick-me-up like doing something pleasurable you haven’t done in a while. Think back to little things that have made you happy and explore those again.

• Laugh, laugh, laugh.

Just as a smile is contagious, so is laughter. Watch a funny movie or reminisce about something funny and just laugh. If you can’t think of anything to laugh at, just start laughing and keep thinking. You’re bound to eventually think of something funny or continue laughing at yourself.

These are a few suggestions, but happiness is unique and so is your path. Edith Wharton was quoted saying “If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we’d have a pretty good time.”

Stop trying to be happy or thinking about being happy and challenge yourself to do what makes you happy. Find what makes you happy today and live life to the fullest.

Image
Advertisements

Stress & Schizophrenia: How To Help Your Loved One & Yourself?

A common cause of relapse in schizophrenia is “difficulty managing high levels of stress,” according to Susan Gingerich, MSW, a psychotherapist who works with individuals with schizophrenia and their families.

Learning to manage stress isn’t just important for preventing relapse; it’s also important because stress is an inevitable part of facing new challenges and working to accomplish personal goals — “what recovery is all about,” write Gingerich and clinical psychologist Kim T. Mueser, Ph.D, in their book The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia.

Learning to navigate stress healthfully is key for family and friends, too. Having a loved one with schizophrenia can be stressful. Taking care of yourself enhances your well-being and daily functioning. And it means you’re in a better, healthier place to help your loved one.

In their comprehensive book, Mueser and Gingerich share excellent tips for helping your loved one and yourself cope with stress (along with valuable information on schizophrenia and how you can support your loved one).

Here are those suggestions and insights on managing and alleviating stress.

Recognizing Stress Signs

What one person finds enjoyable, another can find stressful. In the same way, how people respond to stress will differ. For instance, one person might exhibit changes in mood, such as becoming depressed and anxious, while another person will show physical signs, such as experiencing headaches and a heightened heart rate.

So it’s important to talk to your loved about their individual signs of stress. Talk about your personal signs, as well. Create separate lists for each of your reactions to stress.

Reducing Sources of Stress
The authors suggest thinking about what situations were stressful for your loved one in the past. Then try to avoid that situation or modify it. If your loved one had a tough time at Thanksgiving last year, it might help to shorten their stay or not go next year.

It’s also helpful to support your loved one in creating a stimulating environment with reasonable expectations. For instance, rather than attend a day program three times a week, one man preferred volunteering twice a week delivering meals to housebound seniors.

Plus, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Eat nutrient-rich foods, get enough sleep, participate in physical activities and engage in fun hobbies. Help your loved one identify what kinds of activities they’d like to do, too.

As the authors point out, because of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, individuals can have a hard time thinking of enjoyable activities. Talk with them about the activities they’ve enjoyed in the past.

Be sure to give yourself and your loved one credit. (Being self-critical just spikes your stress.)

Mueser and Gingerich note how one father acknowledges the positive things that happen on a daily basis: “I’m proud of how persistent my daughter has been in pursuing her art career in spite of the many difficulties she’s encountered. We both have a lot to learn about coping with this illness, but we’ve also come a long way.”

Learning to Cope with Stress

Emphasize the importance of your loved one communicating with others when they’re feeling stressed, since “these feelings can be an early warning sign of relapse,” according to the authors. Make sure you, too, are able to turn to individuals who understand your situation.

Have family meetings to talk openly about the stressor and brainstorm potential solutions. Learn to use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization (such as imagining a serene beach scene).

Self-defeating thoughts only bolster stress for both of you. Try to practice positive self-talk and teach your loved one to do the same.

Mueser and Gingerich share the example of a father helping his daughter reframe her hospitalization, which made her feel like a failure: “I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I’m proud of you for getting help when you needed it and for being so strong in dealing with this illness. You’re a survivor.”

Don’t underestimate the power of humor. Try to find the lighter side of a stressful situation, according to the authors. It’s not always – or usually – easy, but it helps with stress. Plus, you and your loved one can enjoy a funny film or sitcom to lessen stress.

For some people, religious services and prayer can be very helpful. For others being in nature may feel like a spiritual experience and shrink stress.

Again, regular exercise — around three times a week — that you enjoy is important for both of you. Journaling can provide a great source of stress relief. “Many people with schizophrenia say that writing down what they experience, think, and feel is an important outlet.”

See if your loved one is interested in listening to music or making music themselves, such as singing or taking lessons; visiting art exhibits or creating their own art; playing games with family and friends, and pursuing other hobbies.

As the authors emphasize, people with schizophrenia are “more sensitive to the effects of stress because it can trigger symptom relapses and rehospitalizations.” Helping your loved one deal with stress in a healthy way helps them pursue their personal goals and improves their life.

Plus, working together to develop healthy coping strategies can strengthen your relationship and gives you plenty of opportunities for savoring quality time.

Image

Being Alone & Content To Be Strong Together

Being alone can be painful. It can also be blissful. It all depends on your level of personal development in this area. A joyful state when you’re alone is attainable. And it is a very worthwhile pursuit.

Once you learn how to be alone you will no long be chained to the desperate need to keep a person in your life even though the relationship is bad for you. Whether the person is a lover, a marriage partner, a friend, or even a family member what good is it if the relationship brings you pain and lower self-esteem? If you can’t bare the thought of being alone you will always be in a position of weakness in your relationships. However, once you learn how to be alone and truly enjoy it you’ll be able to negotiate your relationships from a position of strength knowing that you can end it and be okay.

We all experience moments of intense loneliness. We initially experience this when we are left alone for the first time as children. As we develop and grow we learn not to fear being alone. Nevertheless, there times when we face feelings of loneliness. These times can be extremely difficult at first.

Transitions in adulthood can bring on powerful feelings of loneliness. When we break up, get a divorce, or a partner dies we are suddenly alone. Before this event, we grew to rely on their companionship. We knew that during almost every evening, weekend, and holiday we would have someone to share it with. The sad feelings that you experience can be the same when a close friendship ends.

If your break up or divorce was preceded by months of tension, the separation might come as a relief initially. After a few nights and weekends alone, however, the relief can turn into desperation about being alone. It is at this point where profound growth is possible. You can use the pain of the break up and the loneliness to move yourself past the sometimes terrifying feelings of facing the future alone! Once you breakthrough and find your strength, which is present in you right now, you’ll experience a whole new world of personal power and freedom.

In the insightful book “Intimate Connections – The Clinically Proven Method for Making Close Friends and Finding a Loving Partner”, Dr. David Burns talks about the importance of learning how to enjoy being alone. He says that a person ability to have healthy relationship is in direct proportion to their ability to be alone.

If a person is comfortable being alone, they are in a position of power and not neediness in a relationship. People who do not have the ability to be alone will be imprisoned if they find themselves in a toxic relationship. You can break free by learning how to be alone and truly enjoy it.

– Surrender to Your Loneliness.

There is something indescribably sweet about surrendering to your loneliness. On that darkest of nights, when you come face to face with yourself, true self-discovery can occur. The quietness and the realization that you are completely alone in a world full of billions of people can be chilling. But once you embrace it and surrender to your aloofness you will begin to grow right there and then. And your growth can be rapid and profound. With each new experience of being alone you will grow stronger. Eventually you will begin to enjoy your own company without a nagging need to be with another person. Once you reach this point, you’ll have the power to choose whether you want to spend a Saturday night alone, with a friend, or with a love interest. Your ability to choose any of these options without any worries empowers you. Then if you do chose to enter into a relationship, you’ll be able to do it from a position of strength, independence, and confidence.

– How Do You Learn How to Be Alone?

Don’t fight being alone by trying to distract yourself. Don’t distract yourself by scheduling all your free time with friends. Don’t distract yourself with over indulgence of food, alcohol, drugs, television, the Internet, or video games. Just be with your loneliness until you come to terms with it. Face it head on! Deal with the feelings that come up. Stay with the discomfort until you find your way to contentment. If you are frightened, move toward your fears until they dissipate. As it is with most fears, you’ll most likely find that what you feared was only an illusion or a misunderstanding.

– Embrace Being Alone.

Embrace being alone by using these periods to get to know yourself on a deeper level. Perhaps on a deeper level than you have in your entire life. You can’t do this by spending a few hours alone. You need much more time. Several weekends or even an entire week’s vacation would provide a great start toward mastery of being alone.

Once you can spend a Saturday night, a weekend, or an entire vacation alone and truly enjoy it, you’ve mastered yourself. You teach yourself how to enjoy your own company by treating yourself like you would a close friend or lover. You look for ways to enjoy, entertain, and please yourself. And yes, I mean the big “M.” There are benefits to learning this art as well, especially for women. Men don’t need any coaxing in this area.

Whenever I refer to the benefits of learning to be alone, I am not only talking about you but also the benefits that your lovers and friends will enjoy. These relationships will benefit because you will be able to participate in them from a position of strength and giving rather than weakness and neediness. If you can’t bare even the thought of being alone you’ll put unhealthy demands on these relationships. You will also sell yourself short because of your inability to enter and maintain these relationships from a position of strength and confidence.

Use periods of being alone to get to know yourself. What do you like to do on a Saturday night? Take yourself out to a fancy dinner. Make yourself a gourmet dinner at home. Have fun! Enjoy your own company. Enjoy your own humor. Laugh at yourself. Do you get the picture?

If you don’t know what you find humorous when no one else is present, find out! If you don’t know what you enjoy to do by yourself, discover it! Make it an adventure! Make it an adventure of self-discovery!

Your goal is to find peace, contentment, and confidence when you are alone whether you are at home, in crowded public space, or at table in a fine restaurant filled with couples on a Saturday night! Once you are comfortable, content, and happy in each of these situations you have mastered the art of being alone. Once this is achieved and you are able to “choose” whether you want to be in a relationship or with other people, your ability to truly love and give without fear or measure will be greatly enhanced.

Image

7 Tips Getting Over A Break Up

1. Letting Go.

What would you do if your house was burnt to the ground, and everything you owned was destroyed? I’m sure you’d be frustrated and angry at first, but at the same time, no amount of anger will undo what has been done. It is what it is. Your best bet is to begin moving on, and working towards creating a new home.

Similarly, when a relationship ends, you’ll want to practice letting go and allowing the healing process to begin quickly.

If you were on the receiving end of a breakup, do not dwell on whether the person will come back or not, if they broke up with you at one point, chances are, something is wrong with the fit of your partnership, and you’ll be better appreciated elsewhere, with someone else. Even if you and the ex get back together, it is unlikely to last.

Trust that everything in the Universe happens for a reason, and it benefits everyone involved in the long run, even if the benefits are not yet clear. Trust that this is the best possible thing to happen to you right now, and the reasons will become clear in the future.

2. Release Tension and Bundled Up Energy.

We all have the need to be understood and heard. Whether we’re on the receiving end or the initiating end of a breakup, we often carry with us the tension and any unexpressed emotions. We can release this extra energy by:

  • Talking about it with a friend.
  • Voicing our opinions honestly and openly with our ex-partner, which have been bottled up in the past.
  • Punching a pillow and crying freely for 10 minutes.
  • Screaming out aloud and imagining unwanted energy being released with your voice (seriously, I’ve done a meditation that incorporated this, and I instantly felt better).
  • Writing in a journal (more on this later).
  • Exercise and body movement.
  • Meditating.

3. Love Yourself.

The practice of loving yourself is the most important aspect on the road to personal happiness and emotional stability. I’ve personally had my most valuable personal growth spurts during the period when I vigorously worked on this aspect of my life.

I did everything from cooking myself fancy dinners, to spending every Sunday on my own doing the things that I loved, to taking myself to Symphonies, to taking overseas trips on my own. Each one had its own challenges and confronted my beliefs about loneliness. Through overcoming the fear of loneliness, I experienced deep joy all by myself. It was so gratifying, refreshing and empowering.

Here are some ideas to cultivate the art of loving yourself:

  • Take yourself on romantic dates as if you were on a date with another person. Put on nice clothes, maybe buy yourself flowers, treat yourself to something delicious, and take long walks under the stars. Whatever your idea of a romantic date is.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror. Look yourself in the eyes. Smile slightly with your eyes. Practice giving gratitude to what you see. You don’t need words. Just send out the intent of giving an abundance of love to the eyes that you see, and feel the feelings of love within you. As you are looking into your eyes, look for something you admire about your eyes – maybe the color, the shape, the depth, the exoticness, or even the length of your eye lashes. This will be a little weird and uncomfortable at first, but just trust me, and continue with it. Do this for a few minutes every day.
  • Sit or stand in front of a mirror, or sit somewhere comfortable (mix it up, and do both on different days), put both hands on your chest and say to yourself, “I love you, <insert your name>”. Repeat a few times, slowly. Continue with qualities you like about yourself, or things you are good at. Be generous and list many, even if they sound silly. Example, “I love that you always know how to make your salads so colorful and appetizing.”, “I love that you have the discipline to go to the gym regularly, and you really take care of your body.”, “I love that you are so neat, and can keep your desk so organized.”
  • Practice doing things on your own to challenge your fear of being alone. For example, if you have a fear of eating alone in a restaurant, go out to a restaurant on your own. Your mission is to find the joy within that experience.

4. Love Your Ex-Partner.

Allow the love within you to flow. Try practicing forgiveness and open up your heart.

Over the past few months, my friend and I have been chatting about the topic of overcoming breakups. He had been married for 2 years and went through a divorce that took him 2 years to emotionally recover from. When asked about how he got over his ex-wife, he had a few snippets of wisdom to convey:

  • “I let myself love her. Even when it felt like my heart was going to break. He says something amazing – when people say, ‘My heart feels like it is going to break.’ He says, ‘Let it break. If you let it really break – really, really break, it will transform you.’”
  • “LET YOUR HEART BREAK WIDE OPEN. Let go of every possible belief or thought that says your ex is anything other than the most incredible, amazing, wonderful person in the Universe. You gotta love them and open your broken heart, WIDE OPEN! That’s how to get over a break-up, really get over it. Anything short of that is not gonna do it.”
  • “The key for me was getting utterly clear: we are apart, and the Universe never makes mistakes. We are over. And I can still love her. That was HUGE. I can love her with all my heart and soul and we never have to be together. And when I realized that, I felt amazing. And still do. The freedom was great. I could finally own-up to how much I wanted out of our relationship. All the hurt and anger disappeared. I was free.”

The underlying message of love in my friend’s words is pretty clear and powerful.

5. Give it Time.

It takes time to heal. Be patient. Give it more time. I promise the storm will end, and the sun will peak through the clouds.

6. Journal Your Experience.

Spend some quality time in a comfortable chair, at your desk or at a café, and write your thoughts and feelings on paper. No, not typing on a laptop, writing on paper with a pen. Follow your heart and flow freely, but if you’re stuck, here are some writing exercises you can do:

  • Drill into the why – Start with a question or statement, and continue to drill into why you feel that way until you have a truthful and satisfying reason. The exercise isn’t to issue blame or blow off steam at someone else. It’s meant to gain clarity and understanding into how you feel, so you can alleviate unnecessary pain. For example, you might start with the statement, “I am in a lot of pain, ouch!”, and your why might be “because she left me”. Now ask yourself, “why does that hurt so much?”, and one possible why might be, “because I feel abandoned”. The following why to “why does feeling abandoned hurt so much?”, “because it makes me feel alone”, etc. More than likely, the real reason has something to do with our own insecurities or fears.
  • Finding the Lessons – What did you learn from the relationship? What did you learn from the other person? How is your life better because of it? How will your future relationships be better because of it?

7. Read Something Inspirational.

Books that deal with our emotions and ego are incredible tools at a time of healing. They help to enlighten our understanding of ourselves and our experiences.

Image

3 Tips For Dealing With Disappointment

Sometimes things just don’t turn out how we want. It could be anything—a project, a relationship, a job. We enter into these situations with high hopes, and often, when our hopes are dashed, we feel intensely disappointed.

Here Are Three Tips to Help Ease the Sting of Disappointment

So that the next time things don’t go your way (and trust me, there will be a next time) you’ll be able to bounce back more easily.

1. Trust.

Many times, when things don’t work out as we planned, there’s actually something bigger and better on the horizon. You’ve probably experienced this before—you get all worked up because you didn’t receive a job offer or something like that—only to realize, in hindsight, that if you’d been offered that job, you never would have moved across the country and met your soul mate. At the time, you probably felt angry, sad, and disappointed. But in retrospect, you can see how everything was working out with perfect timing.

When things don’t go our way, it’s important to learn to trust that the universe has our back. Even though your situation might look bleak at the moment, there’s something better coming. I truly believe that when we think in this way, we actually create these bigger and better things. Call it a shift in perspective, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or the law of attraction. However you want to think of it, there’s a mountain of evidence attesting to the fact that, in all areas of life, mindset matters.

Cheryl Richardson, the best-selling author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care and You Can Create an Exceptional Life, often tells the story of her experience with the Oprah show. One day, Cheryl got the call that many people dream of—Oprah wanted to have her on her show. Cheryl was elated, until she received another call a few weeks before the show was to air. It ended up that Oprah didn’t want her anymore.

Cheryl was devastated, but after some initial mourning, she kept following her passion of being a life coach and author. Then, a year later, Oprah called again. This time, Cheryl got on the show, and she did so well that Oprah turned her into a regular guest on her Life Makeover Series.

The moral? Cheryl says that if she had gotten on the show the first time around, she wouldn’t have done as well, because she didn’t have enough media experience to nail the interview. The extra year gave her time to hone her craft so that when she did end up on the show, she knocked it out of the park.

The next time something doesn’t go your way, close your eyes and say to yourself, “I trust that everything in my life is happening in perfect, divine timing.”

2. Release.

In modern life, we often place far too much emphasis on the outcome of our actions, as opposed to enjoying the journey. We have a picture in our mind of exactly how everything is supposed to work out: we’ll have this relationship by this age, this job at this point, this much money in the bank by this year, this many children, this car, this house, and on and on.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how the real world works. Of course, it’s always nice to have goals and a vision of what we want in life, but if we attach too strongly to that vision, we end up feeling crushed when things don’t go according to our five (or forty!) year plan.

We need to loosen our grip on the outcome and learn to enjoy the process. We try so hard to control our lives, while the saying, “Man plans, god laughs” is utterly true.

Let go of your attachment to the outcome. All you have is this moment, right here, right now. This is it! Enjoy it as best as you can. If this moment is difficult, return to point one and trust that something better is on the way.

3. Expand.

When we’re working toward a goal, we often have on blinders. These blinders cause us to see a very narrow picture of the outcome that we desire. Unfortunately, this tunnel vision results in a very close-minded approach that can actually stifle our motivation and creativity.

A practice that I like to use is to ask the universe for what I want, but to keep an open mind at the same time. For example, you can visualize the outcome that you desire, and then affirm to yourself, “I trust that I am being guided toward this or something better.”

Access Consciousness recommends a fantastic question to help reduce narrow-mindedness. The next time you catch yourself obsessing over a very specific outcome, ask yourself, “What else is possible?”

The trick here is to avoid searching for an answer with your logical mind. We tend to overemphasize the capabilities of our rational mind, when in fact, research shows that we actually make poorer decisions when we rely on logic. Many times, our emotions, gut feelings, and unconscious minds lead us to better decisions. Creativity is not logical.

You’ve probably heard many examples where people came up with solutions to problems, inventions, and beautiful pieces of art through dreams or other unconscious means.

When we find ourselves getting too preoccupied with an outcome, we need to let it go for awhile and expand our mindset. Go for a walk, spend time with a loved one, or meditate. Continue to ask yourself, “What else is possible?” But don’t go searching for the answer. Let it percolate. The guidance will come exactly when it’s meant to.

Disappointment as a Gift.

In the end, life’s disappointments often bear hidden gifts. The trick is to shift our perspective so that we can see these blessings for what they are.

In his book The Gift of Fire, Dan Caro talks about how a horrible childhood accident that left him disfigured and near death was actually a gift. Dan learned early on how to make adversity work for him, and you can too.

Just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and trust, release, and expand.

Image

Stop Feeling Useless

The ultimate potential of life depends upon the art of discovering one’s talent and making the most of it. Nature has given everyone some kind of talent. However, most of the people do not recognize their true talent. They keep themselves busy in a futile attempt of making comparison with others better in certain aspect of life and develop an inferiority complex, which lead them to feel useless.

Comparing oneself with others is a root cause of the sense of feeling useless. The moment you compare oneself or give attention to the idea of being compared with someone more successful in life, then the sense of feeling useless occurs in your mind. By making comparison you waste your mental as well as physical energy at such a level that you do not have enough energy available to concentrate on positive aspects of life.

Hence you should learn not to compete with others because you will always find someone better than you in any given aspect of life. According to the law of nature, the collective potential of everyone is the same, but no two persons have exactly the same talents. So there is no scope of true comparison left in life.

Therefore, you should learn to make use of your own unique talent and try to live with your limitations comfortably. No one is going to compete with you for being you. If you do not give importance to being yourself by discovering your unique talent and making use of it, then you degrade your reputation in your own eye and develop the sense of feeling useless.

Finally, life is a gift to cherish. Figure out your own gifted talent and make the best use of it. Do not waste your energy and complicate all things in life by making comparison. You are destined to enjoy the beauty of life by the virtue of your own unique talent. Be yourself and make use of your talent.

Image

The Art and Soul of Apology.

UH OH. NOW YOU’VE REALLY DONE IT! 

You’ve messed up big time! You said something you shouldn’t have, did something you shouldn’t have, let someone down, hurt someone’s feelings, took something that didn’t belong to you, gossiped, lost your temper, made false assumptions, took someone for granted. You’ve hurt someone you love, someone with whom you work, a neighbor, a friend or a relative.

It’s time to pay the piper. Your debt has come due. You need to apologize.

The Debt of Apology.

Why do we say, “I owe you an apology.”?

Apology is a debt of sorts. When we hurt, let down or disappoint someone, we have taken something from them. Usually that something is trust. Lose your temper with a loved one, and you’ve taken away their trust that you will treat her with respect and love. Let down an employer, and you’ve taken away his trust that you will do your job. Gossip about a friend, and you have taken away his trust that you will treat him with respect. Strike out at your child, and you have taken away his trust that he will always be safe with you.

It is your relationships that are on the line when it comes to paying the debt of apology.
If you value your relationships, you have to work at earning and keeping the trust of those people whose relationships you value. That’s why when you mess up and we all do, it’s best to apologize right away.

The Art of Apology.

An offhanded, “sorry” isn’t enough. Throwing the word out there is meaningless unless you also communicate that you truly understand how you hurt the other person and what you intend to do to make things right.

Here are some ideas for making meaningful apologies:

– Timing is critical. Apologize as soon as possible. Don’t let the anger, hurt or resentment stew in its own juices. It will only grow.
– Deal directly with the person you have offended. Don’t e-mail, call or send someone else to apologize for you. Think about what you need to say and then talk to the person face to face if at all possible.
– Tell the other person that you value your relationship with him or her and that you want to make things right.
– Ask for the other person’s view of what you did and how it made him or her feel.
– Explain what you did. Tell the whole story. Leave nothing out, because what you leave out will ruin whatever trust you are trying to re-build if the person hears about it later. Tell the whole truth. Admit that you were foolish, lazy, too short tempered or whatever the infraction was.
– Don’t make excuses for yourself. Never say, “You made me mad.” You are ALWAYS responsible for your own feelings and actions. ALWAYS.
– Pay the debt by doing something to make things right with the offended person, because actions speak louder than words.

The Yin and Yang of Apology and Forgiveness.

Hopefully, the offended party will forgive you. But, understand that this may not happen right away. Forgiveness can take time, and it may not come to you just because you have asked for it. Hurting someone’s feelings has consequences. The apology may be an ongoing process as you continue to work toward earning back the trust the offended party has lost in you.

Whereas apology is a debt to pay, forgiveness is a gift to be given. They are wrapped up in each other. Both apology and forgiveness are behaviors that often must be learned. They don’t come easy to many of us. We think it’s easier to hold the grudge or refuse to lower ourselves to the level of apology. Both behaviors, the refusal to apologize and the refusal to forgive, are relationship killers, particularly when the behaviors are both present in a relationship. Learning to apologize can begin to break the stalemate that often occurs.

The Soul of Apology.

In reality, you don’t “lower” yourself to apology. Rather, you stand up tall and admit that you made a mistake. Such an admission is a mark of courage, not fear. Working to earn back the trust of a loved one is a sign of strength rather than weakness. Recognizing your mistake is a sign of intelligence, and working to change your behavior is a sign of growth.

The soul of apology is love. When you love someone, you feel what he or she is feeling. That’s called empathy, and it is the very hallmark of humanity. It is what separates us from the lower forms of life.

After you have apologized to the injured party, then work on forgiving yourself. Use the situation as an opportunity for learning about yourself and the one you hurt. Then ask God’s forgiveness. He’s the only one who always forgives!

Image