Please forgive me.
I forgive you.
I love you.
In his book, “The Four Things That Matter Most” hospice specialist Dr. Ira Byock writes that these are the words that dying people long to hear and say to those they love.
We might be able to say them to a dying person we love. But, as Dr. Byock says, they can also change our relationships with the living.
But sometimes they’re very hard to say. Why? Because we may appear weak or even vulnerable.
My dad found it hard to say, “I love you.” I think for him it didn’t feel “manly.” But in his 90’s he wrote in his journal, “I sure do love Carolyn and Jerry.” Then he handed it to us to read!
Vulnerability can be tough. Do we feel we’re putting ourselves in a “one down” or “one up” relationship? For instance, a parent may have trouble apologizing to a child. Or a boss to an employee. Will admitting we were wrong diminish us in the other’s eyes?
Will we lose face?
Are we afraid to be hurt or rejected if we reveal our feelings?
What if I apologize and the other person refuses to forgive me?
What if I express love and the other person remains silent?
What if I thank someone and he says, “It’s about time!”
What if I tell someone I forgive them and they say, “I didn’t do anything wrong. You’re too sensitive.”
(Note: It’s a wonderful idea to forgive, but not so good to say so unless/until the other person expresses a need to be forgiven!)
I invite readers to say which of these is easy and which is hard for you. And why. For myself, just for today I’m going to try to speak a little more courageously with my nearest and dearest!
same topic that the preacher spoke about yesterday . . .so very true and so very timely. Oh, that our country could exercise some love and just move on towards our future instead of dwelling on the past.
I appreciate your thoughts.
Charles Stanfield says
When a loved one passes — mourning is eased somewhat — when you and the one who passed have said these four phrases to each other. My 35 year old only son died unexpectedly six weeks ago. We have had serious issues to handle — childhood divorce, my substance abuse, staying close while living on opposite sides of the country and re-marriage — to name the main points.
Because of open loving sharing we were largely clear of our issues. We enjoyed long and frequent visits. We told each other how we felt about each other and our behavior. Without that open clarity — his being gone would be that much harder.
This book is at the top of my favorite books list. I did say the 4 Things to my father before he passed away. I think it was the only time I saw him cry but there were good tears. I highly recommend not just reading the 4 Things but acting on them. They have the power to change your life and the life of one you love.
My own responses:
Will we lose face?- I think we have so much more to gain. Yes, it is a humbling experience but being humble is a good thing if expressed sincerely.
Are we afraid to be hurt or rejected if we reveal our feelings?- Expressing these things take courage but it’s worth it.
What if I apologize and the other person refuses to forgive me?- It really doesn’t matter if someone chooses not to forgive you. You have extended your regret for any hurt. It would be nice if the other person would accept it but you have chosen the good with your apology and that cannot change.
What if I express love and the other person remains silent?- AGain. You have expressed love and that’s the good and important action. You do not say “I love you” only to hear them say it back to you, do you?
What if I thank someone and he says, “It’s about time!”- Laugh. and agree with that sentiment because it’s entirely true. It is about time we express gratitude.
What if I tell someone I forgive them and they say, “I didn’t do anything wrong. You’re too sensitive.”- I thought about this one before I spoke with my Dad. I don’t even know if I voiced this one. But I like the words “I forgive you for any time you may have hurt me. ” I admit this is a very difficult one.
Several years ago, I had a falling out with a dear friend. It was one of the saddest experiences of my life. Months later, I apologized for my role in the breakup, and asked her to forgive me. She said she did, but our friendship was never the same. It’s now been years since we’ve seen each other. She has never apologized for her own role in the fractured friendship. Am I sorry I apologized? Absolutely not! I’m relieved I found the courage to admit fault and ask forgiveness, even though our friendship did not survive. It has given me a sense of peace and closure I wouldn’t have had otherwise.