Forgiveness is a great principle. Relationships can’t survive without forgiveness. But there’s a time and a place
for everything and forgiving and forgetting have their places. It’s not where you think they may belong.
Have you heard the same promises over and over again and yet nothing changes? Do you feel like you’re repeatedly forgiving for the same transgressions?
Forgiving and forgetting can be a form of denial. Denial that the person has repeatedly lied to you (a promise made but intentionally not kept is a lie). Denial that you’re being taken advantage of by the other person.
Stop the insanity! You already know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. It’s time to stop forgetting and start remembering all the previous false promises. It’s time to stop forgiving those unmet promises and let others experience the consequences of their actions.
So, suppose your child is chronically late for family dinner. Previously the family has agreed to eat together or you’ve told your children they are expected to be home at the agreed upon time for dinner (and they do not have schedule conflicts that prevent it).
Here’s an example of what you might say.
If you are late for dinner, know that the rest of the family will eat without you. Know that there will not be a plate waiting for you ready to eat. Know that no one will make you something to eat. You can make yourself something to eat, as long as you clean up the kitchen. And if you don’t clean up, the kitchen will be off limits to you until the next regularly scheduled meal time.
Will your child magically show up for dinner forever after? Perhaps. But probably not.
But you will no longer be a victim of false promises or of having to prepare another meal later in the evening. If your tardy child prepares his own meal and leaves the kitchen a mess, an early morning roust from bed to clean up the mess so that you and the rest of the family have a clean place to prepare and eat breakfast is not out of line.
You’re not being mean to your child, you’re setting boundaries for yourself so you’re not overwhelmed by his unrealistic demands. Face it, your child is no longer an infant and meals on demand are inconvenient to you and cause duplicative and unnecessary work. Once your child sees that you are firm in your commitment to your boundary, he may start showing up on time. And you may occasionally grant an exception for special circumstances outside his control, without destroying your boundary.
Whether junior eats with the family or not, you will be building a positive relationship with him because you’ve set an appropriate personal boundary.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: The strongest relationships are those built on honest respect for your personal boundaries. These boundaries define you as an individual. The next time you’re tempted to forgive and forget a transgression against you, first stop to remember whether this is an isolated incident or a recurring theme in your relationship. If it’s a regular occurrence, it’s time for a change.
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Do you have a story to tell about your own struggles with setting personal boundaries? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!