Living in a metropolitan area with an estimated population of nine million people, I find myself a little annoyed nearly any day when I can’t avoid being out among them. Tourists walk four people wide, slowly and oblivious to those of us not on vacation, blocking foot traffic in both directions. Yet the city is highly dependent on their spending, so we learn to work around them.
I forgive them for being inconsiderate, and I take responsibility for making my life work, in spite of them. It’s easier for me to change my responses, routes, and schedule than to expect the thousands of tourists I encounter each year to change. (I can still hope for their enlightenment in the meantime!)
People can be similarly disrespectful when they play music, movies, and television shows on their smartphones, without headphones, as if they’re getting commissions for the additional listeners forced to notice them. They somehow aren’t aware of our fantasies of grabbing the phones and throwing them on the subway tracks when the doors open at the next station.
It’s probably best for me to move to another car or wear headphones. I’ll still be annoyed, but I will have remedied the immediate problem and given myself my power back.
This simple surrender can be used with many degrees of everyday conflicts, but only if I am aware of what I value most in situations. If I seek to catch a train, be at a meeting on time, have a safe and worry-free commute, live a long active life, and more, then I’m probably unwilling to trade a few minutes releasing anger for the risk of losing everything else.
I make trade-offs like this every day, in part because, in small moments, we might have differing interests, beliefs, and experiences that have us disconnected. I think you’re a jerk when you’re so deep in some painful feelings that you have forgotten you are in public. You think I’m an uptight witch when I’m trying to finish a work assignment and get to bed before midnight.
Regardless of the situation, I forgive both of us and trust that we will negotiate the conflicts powerfully, especially if I take responsibility for my role in them. I always have choices, even if I forget them.
When I was violently assaulted in 2014, I chose to forgive and stand for my assailant’s rehabilitation. I chose this because it was consistent with my values of contribution and cultivation. But I still pressed charges because I also value accountability.
The family member who emotionally, financially, and physically abused me for years was never held accountable, and I see how my attempts to contribute to and cultivate her continue to fail without accountability and leadership.
By abandoning two of my core values when dealing with my abuser, it became easier to step over the lack of mutuality, diplomacy, and unity in our relationship. I found myself relaxing into gossip that I promised not to engage in. I stopped being the person I wanted to be, which made it easier for me to stop standing up for who I thought I was or what I wanted. Once I was weakened, I was verbally attacked and physically intimidated in ways that made me forget that I was an adult who could protect myself. Deeply vulnerable, I re-lived the trauma of childhood abuse while trying to work through the shock of the planned attack.
I chose differently then, and that influences how I choose now.
I used to give my power to others. They didn’t always seize it. I was uncomfortable having it and didn’t know what to do with it, so I often handed it to people who seemed to want or need it.
I forgive myself for this, and I forgive the world for presenting me with the people who hurt me. They brought lessons I sometimes had to have literally beaten into my head. I’m good now. I prefer to learn more gently!
- Can you see where you sometimes are the jerk who causes your own pain?
- Are you willing to embrace your personal power as the gift it is and stop fearing it?
- Who have you been giving your power to and why?
- Can you share that power and create something great together?
- Or are you handing over your power and hating the word for that person’s very existence?
- Can you take your power back, forgive the world, and accept the lesson?
If you need some help getting there, this can help: Buy the book
For more guidance on forgiveness:
- Can You See the Victim in the Abuser?
- Five Things to Know About Jerks (and Rapists, Addicts, Sexists, etc.)
- Nance Reads the Poem She Wrote to Her Attacker
Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a New York City attorney and mediator who focuses on keeping people out of court and building their conflict resolution skills, especially in business and employment disputes. Her holistic, integrative approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a crime victim, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, and United Nations representative. She is a 2001 graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM). She is also creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master, and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018 & 2019), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards), and Urban Rebound NY/Count Me In (Finalist, 2013 Pitch Competition).