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  • Writer's pictureSarah Carter

Let it go!

People are going to hurt, aggravate, belittle, ignore, undermine, and generally piss you off from time to time. This is an unavoidable occurrence during our many trips around the sun on this tiny, blue-green rock we call home. Short of living out the dream of moving to Mars and being a lone space pirate, we all have to accept this risk in life. When these instances take place at the office, at home, on the subway, in a restaurant, in an Uber, or wherever we have to determine the best way to handle the situation.

There are several reaction options including the preferred method of the snow queen, Elsa, which is to freeze everyone and hole up in your sweet ice castle of bitterness and fear. This may be tempting but it is definitely not healthy. The Frozen theme song, and Dr. Lerner in Why Won't You Apologize?, both suggest a far better reaction to people who hurt you in some way but do not offer up an apology: Let it go! "Letting go means protecting ourselves from the corrosive effects of staying stuck. Chronic anger and bitterness dissipate our energy and sap our creativity, to say nothing of ruining an otherwise good day" page 142. Holding on to the hurt, angry feelings that happen immediately after someone's bad behavior leaves us in a vulnerable, unproductive state and puts us at risk of getting stuck in a funk if we decide to allow it.

I can feel you rolling your eyes and hear you thinking "easier said than done Sarah" from here. "Our longing for justice, the singularly human struggle to make sense of the other person's behavior, and our tendency to take things personally, are among the factors that may keep us from moving on - whether from a small insult by a stranger, or from a devastating betrayal in an important relationship" page 157. However, we "need to accept the reality that sometimes the wrongdoer is unreachable and unrepentant...and we have a choice as to whether we continue to carry the wrongdoing on our shoulders or not" page 142. With a little practice at determining what, and who, is worth waiting on an apology for and what, or who, is not will markedly improve your relationships in every sphere of your life. Identify an accountability partner who you can run situations by to help you determine what to seek an apology for and what to Let Go.

Another reason we hold on to hurts is because we played a role in the wrong doing that we do not even want to admit to ourselves especially if it was something that was out of character. "We're unlikely to let go of negative focus on one person if it allows us to protect our favored image of a different person or relationship, including our relationship with our own self" page 166. Have courage to reflect on this and to stay true to yourself. Maybe you are the one that needs to extend an apology for your role. Situations when you are upset with someone, but you also played a role in the ball of hurt that is filling the room, present an opportunity for a very difficult apology that may just strengthen your relationship with them rather than further harming it. "We strengthen our relationships when others know that we're capable of reflecting on our behavior" page 176. Use your accountability partner to help you identify these opportunities then courageously step up and apologize for your role in the hurt then watch how the relationship deepens.

While determining the ins and outs of letting go, do not fall into the ego trap that is the belief that letting go requires forgiveness. "Letting go...doesn't mean forgiving, forgetting, or whitewashing the other person's bad behavior" page 141. Letting go and forgiving can go together but this is not required. Forgetting and forgiving are other, complex processes that can fill the pages of two other separate posts. Do not feel pressured to forgive/forget when choosing to let go of a hurt in order to prevent getting stuck in a whirl of bitterness in the wake of someone's bad behavior. It is your choice to be free of the need for an apology and your right to hold out on forgiveness/forgetting if the hurt is big enough. This is another place where an accountability partner would be super useful.

Dr. Lerner's final point in this book is what I want to leave you with because it is truly excellent. A lot of this book was very family and personal relationship based but this last point links it to professional leadership. It had me rereading sections of the book in a new light and looking for how I can apply her methods to my leadership approach.

"The courage to apologize, and the wisdom and clarity to do so wisely and well, is at the heart of effective leadership, coupledom, parenting, friendship, personal integrity, and what we call love" page 185. I hope you go back to parts of the book and read them from these different lens as well.

The next book I've chosen for us to tackle should be full of interesting insights into some ago-old assumptions revolving around success. Please check back with me on September 14th for my first look into Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker. Head to your favorite book store, or online store, pick up a copy and read along with me.

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