Written Nov 18th, 2016 — Published Jan 3rd, 2017
Sometimes when I go to see movies with friends I end up ranting about how the plot wouldn’t have worked at all if the characters knew how to talk to each other.
I admit that this probably isn’t a very charming aspect of my character. I’m over enthusiastic about communication in every aspect of life, so this is the predicament of going to movies with me.
Recently the importance of communication came up in a new friendship I had formed at a conference. I grew super close with someone over several days, as you do at conferences, and then made a huge mistake — put simply I texted the wrong person the wrong thing at the worst possible time.
This new friend did what most people in movies do, and they politely accepted my apology and excused me. It wasn’t until months later when I purposefully (after waiting half a year) brought it back up again that they were honest about the fact that my accidentally misplaced texts made them feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
The trouble with this politeness is that it was partly disingenuous. If they had genuinely not had a problem with the incident, what they said in accepting my apology and excusing me would have been fine. Instead of the intended result (to save face and forgive the other party) it simply served to delay an inevitable conversation, or keep the offending party unaware of their offense.
Put simply: If someone slips up and then asks forgiveness — even though it might be difficult to be honest, please don’t do them the disservice of excusing their actions, saying they didn’t do anything wrong, or insisting that they shouldn’t fret.
They should absolutely fret.
There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad when you’ve done something to hurt someone else, whether intentionally or not. Feeling awful is a natural opportunity to reflect on how you can do better in the future.
My favorite two books on this topic are both short and life changing.
The first is under 100 pages, and takes maybe an hour to read. It’s called “Lying” by Sam Harris and it might just be the most helpful pamphlet in the world.
The second is a bit longer (and has two sequels that are equally good) — it’s called “The Road Less Traveled” and it’s by M. Scott Peck. I recommend this book to people more often than any other.
Please take the time to be honest with people in your life, whether you’re close with them or not, regardless of if being honest is difficult or easy. It’s important, it matters.
Your honesty gives the offending party (if they’re up for it) a chance to reflect and grow, and that’s the greatest gift of forgiveness you can give.