When we tell the truth in a responsible, respectful and non-blaming way that doesn't make the other person wrong, and acknowledges our part in a breakdown, a remarkable thing often happens. Judgments dissolve, resentment melts, and we feel closer to and forgiving of the other person and often of ourselves as well. Sometimes of course, they aren't particularly happy to hear our feelings and may feel put down regardless of how careful we are to express ourselves non-judgmentally. If we can stay true to our own experience, and simultaneously be accepting of the feelings that the other person is expressing, then we can, after a few go-rounds, come to a place of deeper understanding. That sympathetic awareness leaves us both feeling more connected and respectful of ourselves and each other.
Consider this confession from Cortland as he’s growing in integrity
Cortland: “When it comes to integrity, I’m no saint. And although I’m much more aware of the consequences of my own lapses than I used to be, there are more times than I care to recall or admit to that I'm guilty of not doing things that I said I would do or doing things that I had said I wouldn't. Because I too have committed my share of “offenses," I generally try to keep my judgments of others to myself and speak about my response to their actions rather than condemn them for doing something “wrong”. For example, by saying something like, “When you showed up thirty minutes late for our lunch date, I felt disrespected.” When my friend inevitably responds with their explanation or excuse that is designed to justify their actions, I listen, thank them for their explanation, make sure that they understand that I heard them, and that they heard me as well.”
“At those times I will be honest and respectful in expressing my feelings of disappointment, worry, irritation or whatever else I'm experiencing in response to a broken agreement on someone else's part. I'm getting a little better at doing this without making others wrong or being judgmental. I will also do my best to reassure them that my motivation in communicating my disappointment is to clear our relationship of any residual debris that could interfere with our sharing the best possible connection that I can have.”
When there is a commitment to integrity there is no circumstance or behavior that can derail us if we're willing to hang in there and keep speaking our truth while listening compassionately to the other person. And on those occasions in which the outcome is less agreeable than we might have desired, it's usually at least a step in a direction that serves the relationship even though the process may be difficult at times.
Living a life of response-ability
In taking back the power to fulfill more of our own needs, we become responsible in the truest sense of the word. Only then are we "able to respond" to the challenges, demands, and opportunities that present themselves in the unfolding moment-to-moment experiences of life. This quality of "responsible self care" is what promotes a feeling of empowerment rather than victimization, of instead of self-pity, of rather than possessiveness, and of enthusiasm rather than anxiety. It is also the ground upon which genuinely fulfilling relationships are built.
Living a life of response-ability means that we don’t spend much time in resentment or self-pity because there's no one to blame for the life we are given and the life that we create. "No one" includes us. Such a life requires us to establish a compassionate and accepting relationship with ourselves. This can be quite a challenge when we've been accustomed to focusing on the expectations of others or if we question our worthiness of such a goal. It takes courage to risk the disapproval of those whose opinions we cherish and it takes even more courage to go against the not-so-small voice within our own mind that lambastes us for being self-centered and selfish for focusing on our own needs rather than those of others, even though doing so ultimately enables us to be more giving and generous with them.
As we grow in understanding, we don't tell the truth because we believe we should or because we were told to do so. We do it because it is the perfect antidote to the self-righteousness, anxiety, arrogance, guilt and resentment that we often feel when we don't. The compassion and humility that flows from our honesty gradually deepens my experience of respect that leaves us feeling more connected with others, more self-accepting, and more free to live our lives authentically.
Linda Bloom L.C.S.W. has served as psychotherapist and seminar leader practicing relationship counseling almost forty years. Check out her OMTimes Bio.
If you like what you read, click here to sign up Bloomwork’s monthly inspirational newsletter and receive our free e-book: Going For the Gold: Tools, practice, and wisdom for creating exemplary relationships.
Follow Bloomwork on Facebook!