Being a grownup

What does it mean to be a grownup?

Let’s start with forgiveness. There are many people who are angry—at their mother for not loving them enough when they were young, at their father for expecting too much from them, at their sister for being Daddy’s favorite, at their brother for always being the one to show off, at a friend for failing to be sensitive to their feelings. I could go on and on. People have lots of reasons to be angry with other people. After all, we are stuck in a world of imperfect people, all having needs, all trying to do the best we can, and all often failing to be as kind or sensitive or caring as we could be. And so, if you are in a relationship with someone—a family member or a friend, that other person will inevitably hurt you. And, by the way, you will inevitably hurt him or her. Sometimes we just don’t tune into the implications of our behavior and no one is immune to that failing.

So what do you do with it? Well, old style psychology insisted that you take the hurt to the person, state how the incident affected you, and then hoped that what would ensue would be a recognition of the other that he or she had hurt you and an apology and a reconciliation. That is really a nice idea. It works. In the movies.

In real life, a thoughtless action, an unkind word, ignoring another or pressing one’s point of view too hard are not always thought of by the person who has done these things as something awful. Their responses might be something like,

“I didn’t mean it.”
“You should have known I was kidding.”
“You’re getting all upset over nothing.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“You always blow things out of proportion.”
“That’s nothing compared to what you did to me.”

And so, that expected resolution frequently doesn’t happen. People who then push and push until there is a resolution, often are disappointed and end up feeling even worse. People who do not pursue it often retain the right to remain angry.

Now let’s look at that anger:
What good is it doing? Well, it’s making one feel like they are evening the score. The underlying message is, “You hurt me—I’ll hurt you.” Is that smart? Well, not really. Is hurting someone with whom you have an ongoing relationship a very smart thing? I don’t think so. How then does that impact on others who must be around the two of you? How does it make you feel inside, really, to be angry? Most people don’t feel comfortable when they are angry. Anger increases tension, adds to our stress, and makes ugly lines on our faces while we are still young. Is it worth it? What about being the grownup and simply forgiving and letting it go.

Clients I have worked with have reported feeling physically lighter and able to breathe more deeply once they let go of their anger. They learned to see their kind gesture toward to others as something that made them themselves better people. They removed the awkwardness of their friends and relatives having to choose sides.

Is it possible to feel close to someone once you have given up the anger? Well, it depends on the person. If the person is just awkward and sometimes really loses it, then probably yes. Probably you can decide that since he or she is a basically good person, that you will try to not become emotional about their behavior in the future. If the person is truly an unpleasant person who you must interact with on a continuing basis such as a family member, then you need to think about how you can guard yourself from becoming emotionally injured by them while at the same time realizing that other people in the family will resent living in a battlefield should you choose not to forgive. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others is forgiveness. And that is part of being a grownup.

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