Forgiveness is such a strong word!

Have you ever had a hard time forgiving someone? I don’t believe anyone on the planet can answer no to that. Forgiveness. It’s such a strong word. Mainly because it takes us back to a time of pain when we felt hurt or we saw the worst of ourselves show its face, or we were just so unforgiving.

So let me show you the back door to forgiveness. If you’ve read this blog before, you can guess where I am going. No need to focus on the past. Stay present, in the here and now. Even if the person is gone from your life, search your memories only for instances of the four practices of otheresteem:

Accept who that person is. Suspend judgement for a while and just be open to discovering the person before you. What do they believe? How do they see the world?

Valuing another, stems from a deep respect of who that person is now.  I call this acceptance.  When we accept somebody, we are not trying to change them, but rather, understand who they are.  We feel in awe of their differentness from us and we strive to get to know them, to distinguish them from ourselves and from others

- From Chapter 1, Otheresteem

Appreciate the positive. What do you enjoy about them? How are they fun, strong, unique? What would you be able to see about them if you weren’t angry, hurt or frustrated with them?

Expect the best! Write a new story together, in which you leave space for them to show the best version of themselves. Be patient and behave as you do when you expect the very best from someone. Start small. A kind gesture, a smile. Make sure you notice.

When my otheresteem is positive for someone, I see them for what they are as well as for what they might become.  I can see beyond present shortcomings, into their ability to rise above them.

- from Chapter 1, Otheresteem

Be grateful for the relationship you hold together. Reflect on what you learn about yourself when you are in their company.

So , what do you think? Once you truly and deeply value that person, forgiveness frequently becomes a non-issue. Or you may find the right moment to express your feelings in a loving way. You are free from the past and ready for the future.

Of course, if you have been practicing otheresteem before, it will still be a challenge to practice with someone you feel you need to forgive. So walk the otheresteem path right to where it intersects with forgiveness. You might even enjoy the scenery!

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Make room for those who’ve let you down.

Chances are, you have a collection of those! If you’ve lived long enough, some people will have let you down in one way or another. Not that they mean to, but unless you have absolutely NO expectations for the people around you (A rare thing in the people I’ve come across in my lifetime!), you know exactly what I am talking about here.

Take my client this morning. She was complaining that one of the individuals on her team – exactly her nominee for “most likely to succeed” – just acted in a dishonest way that made her question what was going on. She felt hurt and “took it to heart”, she said. Feeling let down, she was considering never trusting this particular colleague again. So much for her hopes for the future of this person’s carreer! It was a dumb move to make and an awkward subject for both of them to discuss.  In a way, it seemed she might be covering up for someone else. It reminded me of the incident in Scent of a Woman (see my post at LeadChange Group later this week for more on that) and how I was unsure if the kid’s sense of loyalty was well placed. Still, he was acting according to what he thought was right, and just. He was simply being the kind of person he wanted to be in the first place. You have to respect that.

Otheresteem is all about acceptance. About moving past incidents where things are not exactly as they should be. How can this be done? For all the heartache and anger and fear that people bring out in each of us when they let us down, we still have a choice. We can accept what is. Protect ourselves only of what we need to and not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Is there no place for appreciation of someone who has proved less than perfect? Someone who did not live up to what we had expected?

Make room for those who have let you down. Be generous, if you may. Be kind, if you need to distance yourself from them. But always learn a lesson. Understand why that particular thing was so important to you. And if you can move beyond the fear, talk about it.

I told my client this morning that if she wanted to move forward and continue to build her collaborator’s potential as she had originally intended, she needed to do a few things.

First, set the record straight. Tell your truth. Listen to hers. Get the facts in line and the feelings on the table. Explain why this is important to you and tell her how you feel.

Then, lay out the groundwork for a different future. It can be something like: “This is NOT the way I want us to relate.” or “I really want this to work.” or “I will do everything I can to get this relationship back on track, and I would like you to do the same.”. There are many creative ways to set great expectations. The fallout is a wonderful time to practice the third aspect of otheresteem.

And last but not least, remember: Trust is yours to give. It is always an act of generosity and a risk to take. There is payoff for giving it as there is for retaining it. Choose wisely, but don’t fool yourself into believing that it is up to them to earn your trust. In the end, it’s about losing your own fear that things will go terribly wrong.

 

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Could we start again, please?

This morning that wonderful song rings in my ears. Could we? I am thinking #OtherEsteem Wednesdays on Twitter. ;) Sure! Why not?  So here’s my Wednesday post and I invite you to join me to tweet about valuing others more today! See the past post on the subject or check in on how it’s going at the Stream of Otheresteem!

Dealing with anger is such a difficult thing! Especially when that anger is directed straight at you. So painful is it, that we immediately want to discredit the person in our minds and distance ourselves emotionally from them, making sure that we do not believe what they say about us. Practicing otheresteem becomes so counter-intuitive then! This morning a good friend wrote me a Facebook message asking for help. She said a subordinate at her office went on an anger spree yesterday, telling her a bunch of things and that she was the worst boss in the world, ever! (Trust me, I have seen worse in my day.) Staying on acceptance, appreciation, moving towards understanding becomes such a challenge in case like this. So – deep breath first – I usually go to the 1% rule my mentor Will Schutz taught me:

What is the 1% where I believe this person to be right?

If I can find that, I will know what is getting me defensive. I can move past that, work on it if I want. I can allow myself to listen past the anger. To understand how this person got to this state and how I am involved both in the road there and in the way out. Deep breath again, and I am ready to accept that this person in angry. I can appreciate her being brave enough to tell me, even in the worst of ways. I can be thankful for the nuggets of understanding about myself in relation to her. I can see possibility beyond my defensiveness. I can be grateful for the opportunity this presents.

Can otheresteem be disarming in this case? Yes. I have seen it happen. Can it help me gain further understanding of myself and the other? That, too.

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Graceful Goodbyes.

Image from Montessori Services

Image from www.montessoriservices.com

I am inspired this week by the flawless application of otheresteem practices by one of my close friends in a difficult situation. No, she did not read my book. Yet she embodies everything I aim to express there. The grace, the care, the power! My friend is at a crossroads in her life. This very week she is ending a marriage of more than 30 years. It was a happy marriage. Except, of course, for the pain, the suffering, the squabbling, the loneliness and dispair of the last few years. Those were hard. Trying times and confusing situations that have brought about her share of anger, tears, frustration.

My friend has been a lifelong learner. Her interests have taken her to therapy, to study the enneagram, to healing with a Brennan technique practitioner, lifecoaching and many other explorations. After some prodding on my part, she also participated in The Human Element basic course with us and went on to become a certified trainer two years ago. That last experience seemed to click with her. It made her explorations of self take on new meaning and her previous experiences seemed to integrate so well that she went on a professional roll! As she worked through relationships in her life and made major changes in every aspect with the help of her coach, she has been blossoming and creating great possibilites for herself and others. But on the home front, things that were already unraveling were doing so at an accelerated pace.

After one particularly hideous fight with him, she wrote a letter to the person she calls her “best friend in life”, her husband of more than 30 years. In that letter, she accepted the end with grace, recognizing that he had changed and now wanted things to be different in a way that she did not. She described how she saw things without judgement, only clarity. She appreciated so many wonderful years together. The longest, most important friendship of her life. The children. The growing up together. The laughs and the support. She set highest expectations for the future: that they could work through this in peace and love. That they could part well and in time, recover the friendship that had started it all. That they would resolve material issues and secure the boys’ future. And she stated all that she was grateful for in the relationship they held together, the one they still have now and the one they will create in the future.

As she was telling me all this, I had the image of Montessori’s long, black strip. Their relationship being long and fruitful. She had laid it out and recognized that the horror of late was only a small part. A tiny white bit of a long, long experience. As a friend, I am so very proud of her. As a woman, I stand in awe and admiration. And as a human being, I am humbled by the beauty of otheresteem expressed. Today, in writing this, I feel blessed to know her and be a part of her life. Graceful goodbyes don’t get any better than this.

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Imperfect Acceptance

We had been at a two day training session for coaches, but most of the time was spent exploring otheresteem issues that were very impressive to this group in particular. The impact on their coaching practice and personal relationships was evident to them, so they went back and forth exploring the implications of the four practices with eachother and in relation to their current coaching clients. One of the participants was especially curious about what real, honest to goodness acceptance might look like. He felt it was the most important of the four practices and one that presented a big challenge in many instances. We discussed this together and he set goals for working acceptance into his life in the next few weeks before we met again.

But it was another of the participants that went away from the experience fired up and ready to go! On the plane ride home she took a notebook and wrote profusely about things she wanted to accept about her husband, often moving herself to tears. She went on to write about everything she appreciated in him and all that she still held as positive expectation. Then, she got to gratitude and realized that, even through the tough times like the ones that they are facing now, she was deeply grateful for their life together.  She couldn’t wait to get home and tell him all about it! She envisioned how it would change their lives, what it could do for them as a couple, as a family. And as soon as she was home she found the time and told him all about it.

The next day, she was writing to me about the adventure. She was dumbfounded by his response! Instead of playing out as she had imagined, he listened intently, looked moved and touched and finally told her that he was so happy she saw everything that she was ignoring and how she was as much to blame for their problems as he was.  She felt her heart sink and her excitement crash. What had she done wrong, she asked me? How could he not understand? This smart, intensely sensitive, brilliant woman was asking. She was judging the excersise as a failure. And him as insensitive, misunderstanding and just plain awful!

I couldn’t help but smile at the irony and at the very same time, understand her plight. I reminded her: you are practicing this. The more you practice, the better you will get. This is all new to you, and to him. So, let’s begin again.What if you accept his reaction? It quickly dawned on her that she was not doing that. What if he gets to react in any way he does and you get to practice everything even more deeply?

I know I’ve been there! More than once! Imperfect acceptance requires an understanding that what you expect is yours and yours only. You don’t get to accept only what you like, but what the other is, what he does, how she reacts.  True acceptance opens the path for consistent positive expectations that can truly make a difference.  And I have high hopes for her. She is well on the way!

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‘Tis the Season

December brings up so many things for all of us. Regardless of you beliefs, religious background or traditions, you can feel the year coming to an end and new beginnings in the making. Many people find a time to review what the year has meant to them, to figure out where they want to go, to express gratitude towards those who made their path easier. You might also find that forgiveness-that uglier cousin to gratitude-will help you in turning a new page, leaving 2009 in the past.

You may be finding it easier, or more difficult to practice otheresteem during the holidays. So much is stirred up, so many energies collide, and to-do lists grow longer than ever. Consider this: you can take otheresteem to the next step and really make a difference. You can build on what you have learned about yourself and connect the dots.  It can start small or with a huge vision, but it will change you and the way you contribute to the world. You may recall we explored the issue here in the November post IT’S ABOUT US ALL. Expansive otheresteem feels like, well, nothing else!

What I want to stress here is that you seize the opportunity NOW, whatever your case may be for this season, to explore how you have built or not built otheresteem this year and how you want to move forward with that.  Make your own list of who you want to value more, how you might go about it and what practices you want to embrace from now to years’ end.  Change your view of the people that have been in your way in 2009.  Open up the possibility for them to fit into a new category in 2010: people you learned from.  I hope that earlier posts in this blog can inspire you as well as the practices I have included in the book.  But if you would like to explore the issue further, leave your comments here and I will be more than happy to continue the conversation.  Or follow me on Twitter (@monedays) and we can engage from there!

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