“I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” John Wesely
Fences rest on borders, and are the responsibility of both parties. Mending a problematic relationship is much like mending a fence. Waiting for the other person to take responsibility for their share of the mending is to place yourself in the role of the victim and to deny yourself the joy that comes with taking the first step to heal a broken relationship. No bruised ego or hurt feeling is worth the pain of realizing that you have waited too long to mend your fence; and yes, it is your fence too. Strained family relationships are easy to forget about the rest of the year but during the holidays they have a way of getting right in your face. Too often instead of doing what we can to improve or mend those relationships we put our energy into either avoidance or defensive behaviors; neither of which turns a negative situation into a positive one.
This holiday season make a commitment to do your part to mend a fence with a friend or family member. Take the high road and become the leader instead of a victim. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
- Recognize and acknowledge your part of the broken fence. How did you contribute to the negative outcome that you are experiencing now? When reconciling it is important to remember that both parties feel slighted and both feel relatively blameless. When you approach the other person approach with the attitude of acknowledging your role in the issue. Pointing out their role will only fuel the fire. No one likes another to point out their shortcomings.
- Apologize This isn’t the time to rehash old feelings. It is the time to put old feelings and slights behind you and to do what it takes to make a fresh, positive start. Apologize for your part in the issue and apologize for not coming forward sooner to make amends. It doesn’t matter who started it. It matters how you end it.
- Listen Remember that the other person didn’t come to the party with reconciliation in mind. They haven’t prepared ahead of time so they may begin to bring up the original issue. They may feel the need to express how hurt they have been over the issue or the estrangement. Just listen. Let them vent and realize that their feelings aren’t a reflection on you, they are just feelings. Be compassionate, forgiving and most of all, be patient. Then acknowledge their feelings by letting them know how sorry you are that everything happened the way it did. Don’t attempt to correct or change their feelings or their memory of the original event.
- Share your feelings of love and forgiveness. Avoid rehashing old wounds; just share your positive feelings about the relationship and the other person. Let them know how much you want to start fresh and to create a happier relationship. Remember that positive words promote positive outcomes and negative words will keep you stuck in the pain. Repairing old fences requires fresh timber. The old, broken timber is burned and forgotten.
- Be patient Rome was burned in a day but it wasn’t rebuilt in a day. Hug and be pleasant during the family gathering but allow time to take its course and mend the relationship fully. Continue to do your part by staying in contact the rest of the year.
Don’t let pride keep you from letting go of your self-righteous anger. Mend those fences today, because today will never “pass this way again.”