After my wife died, I admit, I had some bad years. I dated a lot of women and went a little crazy. About two years ago, I got myself back together and apologized to my children for my behavior. The problem is my daughter hasn't forgiven me. She will not even talk to me. How can I fix this, what can I do?
I’m afraid there isn’t a lot you can do as far as making her forgive you. As you know, people can be very stubborn when mad. For many people, staying mad is their way of having control over the person who hurt them. Casting you as the bad guy is giving her a sense of control and power.
We all have a subconscious tendency to cast other people as the bad guy so we can feel like the good guy (a position of superiority). We do this to quiet our fears around not being good enough. The more we focus on the bad in others, the easier it is to overlook our own faults.
When someone latches onto a story, which casts you as the bad guy, they really want to be right about this story. They will spend a lot of time and energy gathering proof about how “bad” you are, whether it’s accurate or not. Letting go of the story (and forgiving you) would feel like losing, and people are not real eager to lose. Most people would rather ruin relationships and even be miserable than let go of their need to be right.
A principle is that people often care more about being right than being happy.
This need to be right is deeply ingrained in all of us. We even attach our value (as human beings) to being right about the opinions, ideas and stories we’ve created. This ties the experience of being wrong with literally feeling worthless.
Many people do not have the confidence and self-esteem to handle being wrong. So they are not open to changing their minds. Understanding these tendencies of human nature will help you to see this situation accurately. You must understand that this behavior is more about her fear than it is about you being bad.
Having said that, there are some things you can do that will make it more difficult to cast you as the bad guy and may give her the opportunity to forgive and maintain her ego’s need to be right too.
1. Look for opportunities to be kind, regardless of her behavior back. Keep being kind no matter how she reacts. Do this not because she deserves it but because it is the kind of person you have decided to be. Whatever you do, do not behave badly back. This is what her ego is hoping you will do so that she will have more proof about how bad you are. Stay commited to kindness.
2. Don’t act hurt or offended by her inability to forgive you. Don’t say anything about it or make jokes about her disapproval of you. This will humiliate her and will only add fuel to the fire.
3. Don’t hold a grudge about her holding a grudge. That will get you nowhere. Choose to behave in a loving way. Trust that forgiveness will come when she is ready. This gives her room to change her mind about you without sacrificing her pride. She can slowly start acting normal toward you again without any fanfare. (In other words, don’t make her apologize for not forgiving you. Let her just change her mind like it’s no big deal.)
4. Remember that life is a classroom. This experience is in your life to teach you something. Being made the bad guy is an interesting part of the human condition. What is this experience showing you about yourself? What is it here to teach you? You may learn some amazing lessons about the nature of forgiveness through this experience. It may be an opportunity to see yourself more accurately. Figure out what you are supposed to learn, and the lesson may end sooner.
5. Remember that bad behavior is more about the other person’s fears about themselves than it is about you. Most bad behavior is actually a plea for love and validation. Look for opportunities to validate her thoughts and feelings. Say things like, “I totally understand how you could feel that way.” You are not agreeing, just honoring her right to be where she is. Keep showing her kindness and respect her views.
6. Forgive her for not forgiving you. You can’t ask her to do something you’re not willing to do, so you must forgive first. She is doing the best she can with what she knows. Forgive her for not understanding the power of forgiveness in her life yet.
7. Accept the fact that she may not forgive you. Make a decision to be happy, loving, strong and stable, whether you get redeemed from your past or not. You are the same you either way. You know who you are, and sometimes that has to be enough.
I hope this helps.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.ldslifecoaching.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.