Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are all enjoying a lovely spring day! Since Easter is a holiday often spent enjoying time with friends and family, I decided today would be a good day to share this post I’ve been thinking about writing for awhile now. You see, a few months ago my older sister Rebecca and I had a fairly significant “falling out,” a very rare occurrence for us. I can count on one hand the number of times this kind of thing has happened between us. We have always been very close. We are even business partners today! Fortunately we were able to work it out after a few dismal weeks…but I mention it to illustrate that if a “falling out” can happen to my sister and I, it can happen to anyone. Family conflict is inevitable, and when it arises, mending those broken down fences may SEEM impossible at the time. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
In my heart of hearts and in my rational mind, I knew that our spat wouldn’t last forever, I knew I personally couldn’t hold a grudge that long, BUT I definitely wasn’t going to let go of it anytime soon! Ironically, the harder I tried to hold onto it, the more miserable I became. One of my favorite quotes is: “Holding a grudge is like drinking the poison and expecting the other person to die.” It’s so true! We hope the other person is suffering like we are and expect them to know how much they have hurt us and make amends. But that doesn’t always happen, and before you know it, weeks, months, even years pass and we continue to hold onto our grudges like a security blanket. Unfortunately, that blanket doesn’t bring us any comfort or security at all. Ultimately, forgiveness, compromise and acceptance are the only things that can soothe feelings and fix relationships. So how can we mend fences with family (or friends) when it seems like such an insurmountable task?
Here are 5 ideas to get you started:
You Go First
The first step is always the hardest, and this one is no exception! But keep in mind, if you can bring yourself to apologize first, you are probably the more emotionally mature person in the relationship and most likely the only one capable of restoring it to the way it was. You need to play your role. Waiting for them will be a futile exercise that no one wins!
Check Your Ego At The Door
Despite the cause of the rift, chances are both of you made some mistakes in handling things. For the sake of fence-mending, let go of your ego and reach out. Put aside whatever the other person did (or didn’t do) that upset you and brought you to this place. Focus on your part and how YOU participated in letting things get so bad.
Let Them Vent
The person on the other side of the conflict might have some anger that he or she needs to get out. Take a little bit of heat for the greater good. The best thing to do is simply let them speak and then repeat your apology. If you start explaining or defending, it will only serve to stir up emotions and ignite the discord all over again.
If the family rift is deep and long-standing, it may take more than one try to start mending fences. It may take more than two or three or even four tries. If you have decided that mending this fence is important to you, you may have to keep trying until it happens. Be patient and persistent.
Shower Them With Love & Laughter
Or as my mother always said, “Kill them with kindness.” (Shower them with kindness is a little more politically correct!) :-) Small gestures such as a hug or bringing them a cup of coffee can go a long way toward helping others heal and open up once again. As will sharing a laugh over a happy shared memory. Laughter sometimes IS the best medicine.
Of course, this process isn’t limited to family members. The process is the same for a spouse, partner, friend, or co-worker with whom you wish to make amends. My final piece of advice: Do it NOW so that the next time a holiday or family gathering rolls around you can enjoy every minute! And remember another favorite quote of mine: “You don’t have to be the one at fault to be the one who’s sorry.” ~Robert Brault