Sunday, 24 September 2017

Healing the Wounds Part 2 - Recognition and Regret

[Click here for Part 1]
Imagine you are watching a typical date movie.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, he does something that hurts or offends her, and now she is at the airport ready to board a plane to Europe and leave her heartbreak behind forever.  He rushes to the airport and catches up to her at the last possible moment and looking deep into her eyes he says "It was only one time, it wasn't my fault, you're making a big deal out of nothing and you just need to get over it."

I don't think she would be very unlikely to change her plans based on what he said.

As I mentioned in Part 1, the path to healing a relationship with a spouse (or anyone else) is the same process as healing our relationship with God when we sin, so I'll be taking quotes from scripture and church leaders about the process of repentance and applying them here to the process of reconciliation.

The first step in healing the wounds is to recognize that you caused a wound.  If you didn't mean to wound you spouse it doesn't mean there is no wound, and if you can't recognize your wrongdoing you won't be able to reconcile over it.

Recognition is something that happens in the mind.  You realize on an intellectual level that your actions or words were not what they should have been.  This may be because you can see the hurt or anger you caused, or because you are aware of how your actions violate expectations and reasonable treatment of other people.

The enemy of recognition is defensiveness and justification.  If you push back against the idea that you are in the wrong and try to rationalize it, then you are not going to be able to make things better.  It doesn't matter what wrongs your spouse has done, or what other circumstances exist, you have to accept responsibility for your actions and embrace the fact that it was the wrong thing to do.  You don't get to decide how somebody else should feel about something.  We all want to be the hero of our own story, but there are times we need face up to the fact that we have become the villain in another person's story and will stay that way until we change it into a story of our redemption.

Regret is probably the most important, as well as the hardest step to take.  We live in an age where anything that produces guilt is labeled as judgmental and intolerant, but that ideology creates a barrier to reconciliation and repentance.  A 'safe space' will not save your relationship, it will allow wounds to fester until the relationship is too infected to survive.

The Apostle Paul praised 'godly sorrow' as something the leads to repentance and salvation (2Cor 7:10).  It is your regret that will provide the emotional fuel to do what you need to do to achieve a reconciliation.  Without an appropriate level of regret you might go through the motions of each step, but they will be hollow and meaningless actions that won't produce lasting results.

While recognition happens in the mind, regret happens in the heart.  It takes heart wrenching regret to bring about a mighty change of heart and that is why repentance is often described as a painful process. The depth of your regret has to match the offense.  You can't cause a bucket load of pain for your spouse then offer a teaspoon of regret and expect it to balance out.

President Spencer W. Kimball said:
There must be a consciousness of guilt. It cannot be brushed aside. It must be acknowledged and not rationalized away. It must be given its full importance. If it is 10,000 talents, it must not be rated at 100 pence; if it is a mile long, it must not be rated a rod or a yard; if it is a ton transgression, it must not be rated a pound.  (What is True Repentance, Ensign, May 1974)
Alma described the regret he felt for his sins as being "tormented with the pains of hell" (Alma 36:13)

Your spouse needs to see your regret as well.  When they see your regret it softens their heart and shows them your heart is changing which builds trust.  If however your spouse has not seen genuine and sufficient regret, don't expect your apologies to carry a lot of weight.  To them it will feel like you are going through the motions, doing what you understand in your head is the right action to take, but lacking the emotion in the heart needed to really mean it.  They can forgive you, even if you don't do any of these steps, but if you want to restore the relationship and heal the wounds you will have to put your heart into it.

This can't be faked either, and it must be regret for what you did, not regret that you got caught.  If you genuinely do not feel an appropriate level of regret over what you did, you will need to work on that.  Have some empathy for your spouse's pain.  Don't make yourself a judge of how they should feel based on how you feel about things.  We all have different sore spots, different insecurities and fears.  The context of your life is not the same as the context of their life.  What may seems like a harmless bit of ribbing or a minor faux pa to you could be a devastating, cruel and hurtful attack in your spouse's eyes because of their past experiences and struggles in life.  You have to respect their feelings as valid and real even when you do not share them.

It may help to talk with your spouse to try and understand the situation from their perspective.  It may be a painful conversation to have, but it will help you understand your spouse better and show you are serous about trying to fix things. It may help you to avoid inadvertently causing more pain in the future.  Listen and don't judge, you are trying to understand them better so they need to be the one doing most of the talking.  Questions to get clarification are OK, but don't try and talk them out of feeling what they feel or back them into a corner.  Seeing their pain will hopefully soften your heart as well. 

Vindictiveness, hardness of heart, and pride will block genuine regret. If you struggle with those, pray for greater humility, empathy and understanding.  Bring the spirit into your life to soften your heart by reading the scriptures, attending church, going to the temple, and serving others. Seek to tap into the gifts of the spirit to help discern your spouse's side and empathize with them.

When you property recognize and regret what you have done the rest of the steps become things that your heart will compel you to do to free yourself of that pain.  They still may not be easy steps to take, but you'll have a strong motivating force to push you through it.  We will discuss the first action steps in Part 3.

1 comment:

  1. having happy anniversary indicate you have patience and respect the relationship and also care it. Nice article.