Chronic stress is one of the most significant, and most common contributors to poor health and emotional suffering. While people need relationships, sometimes relationships can be the source of that chronic stress. We can’t always entirely remove ourselves from the relationship stressors, so the next best thing is learning to deal with those relationships so they no longer become a stress to us.
My home away from home is in Newfoundland, Canada and much of what has become LOL Living was inspired there. The landscape is rugged and beautiful and the people are some of the most amazing and inspiring that I have ever met. On two separate trips there this year, I went in search of icebergs.
If you have never seen a glacier or iceberg in person, they are truly awe-inspiring. They come in all shapes and sizes, they have beautiful designs and jagged edges and there is so much more to them than what you can even begin to see. They look so strong, but they are so fragile too. You have to be careful when you are near them because a piece may break off (calving) or the entire iceberg may flip over!
But what does that have to do with relationships? People are just like an iceberg. Who we are, how we think, how we feel, how we react and what we believe are all created by millions and millions of sights, sounds, tastes, touches and interactions. People only let us see what they want us to see, but there is so much more underneath. Some tried to hide their imperfections, but, like an iceberg, there may be a crack deep inside that is just about the break. Worse yet, you may never know, just like an iceberg, when a person is about to flip!
How you react to a person might cause a person to crack of flip. Think about it…isn’t that what is happening in North America right now? There is so much hatred going on because people don’t take the time to look at the other person’s point of view. They pack on layers and layers of hatred because they teach it to their children. They make assumptions about other people’s actions that may or may not be correct. They don’t forgive the person for whatever difference they may see and that forgiveness is the key to managing your stress.
A good friend told me once that failing to forgive is like drinking poison and hoping that the other person dies. That is the best analogy that I have ever heard. When you carry grudges or anger, the only person that you hurt is yourself. Unless the person carries guilt about the situation, they get to live a happy life, while you suffer. If they do feel guilt, your forgiveness can help them deal with their guilt and relive the stress for your life. Win-win.
The important part of forgiveness that most people forget is that forgiveness does not mean that you have to put yourself into the same situation again. Forgiveness, to ourselves, means that we have released ourselves from the emotional turmoil and learned a lesson. From a stress perspective, leaving the emotional turmoil behind is the key, but if you want to avoid repeating that stressor, you have to learn a lesson.
In any stressful relationship, it is important to analyze the lesson. Not only does it minimize the risk of reoccurrence, seeing the situation as it really is helps with releasing the emotional stress. For example, what if a business partner forges your signature on a contract. What does that tell you about trusting that individual? Were the precautions that you should have taken to limit his access? Were there red flags that you missed? All of these things sound like stressors, but they can be turned into lessons.
Here are two of my favorite quotes that are especially applicable to here:
“Insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results” and
“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Forgiveness means that you forgive the person, it does not mean that you have to forgive the act. In my example above, you would forgive your business partner, but the lesson you would have learned is that he may not be someone you can trust in business. You can choose to discontinue all business relationships with him or you can choose to limit the trust until he proves himself again. Either way, you have removed the emotional stressor and you have limited the likelihood of reoccurrence.
When my children were growing up, I tried to teach them that if someone made them angry, remember that every person on this planet is going to lose someone or something on some day while they are on this earth. Take a deep breath, and imagine that right now is that day for that person. How would you react differently if that was really the case? You might still be angry, but your compassion would tend to lessen the blow.
Can you imagine what a different place the world would be today if everyone practiced some of these principles and taught them to their children? So the next time you interact with a person, think
- There is so much more to the person than you can see;
- They are layers and layers of happiness, anger, confusion, love and a million other emotions;
- Those emotions and pressure (like icebergs) formed and shaped who they are;
- They broke off from their family (or the glacier) and they have had a long path to get to where they are now;
- There are millions of little cracks, instability and stressors that you can’t see and you don’t know what different kinds of pressure will cause;
- Any person, or iceberg, can “flip” without apparent cause;
- Always take the time to pause, breathe and reflect:
- Take time to get to know the person, never rush;
- Appreciate the beauty
- Appreciate the differences between you
- Show compassion and understanding for the flaws
- Give them strength when their cracks are showing
- Warm them up with love – it will cause them to melt a bit and soften up the hard edges!