When someone does something wrong, it is so easy for us to “forget” all the things that they have done right in that moment. When we are highly emotional, it’s like whatever they did wrong is the only thing that exists.
A while ago, I posted an article about how we tend to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand. And today’s quote fits the idea behind this one. When someone does something wrong or hurtful, we tend to engrave it in marble and write all the things they do right in sand.
As a general rule, when I feel really hurt or highly emotional about something, I try to take a step back for a little bit before addressing it with the “offending” person. I know in the highly charged moment, I am apt to focus on the thing they did wrong more than seeing the whole picture that typically includes significantly more things that they do right. I don’t always adhere to my rule, but I sure try to.
I often find that distracting myself by doing some kind of physical activity or watching something I enjoy often helps me work on how I am feeling in the background. Then I can approach the situation from a better place. I have also discovered that doing this, allows me to focus on what I am really feeling about the situation. Anger is a great mask for a variety of feelings like fear, anxiety, hurt, worry, guilt, shame, embarrassment, sadness, betrayal and/or jealousy.
By taking some time to work through what I am really feeling, it gives me the opportunity to be clear about how I feel and communicate it effectively. By the time I have worked through it, I’m not as emotional and I’m less apt to behave that I’m not proud of when confronting the person with my feeling. Instead of reacting, I am responding to the situation. And instead of being emotional and harping on what they did wrong, I have a much more laid back, productive demeanor with the end goal of resolving the issue, rather than just telling someone they did something wrong.
So why do we get so focused on the one thing that someone did wrong in the first place?
When an issue comes up again and again, it’s because it isn’t resolved. Perhaps you are bringing it up often because you don’t feel seen and heard. The “one thing” is usually something pretty big for us, too, and may be a symptom of a larger problem. Perhaps you are mad at your partner because he spent time with another woman after work getting a drink, but the real problem is there are trust issues in the relationship. Maybe they are there because he has done something shady in the past. Or perhaps he hasn’t, and you are just worried that he will. Those deeper issues will need to be addressed.
Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of our partner. Perhaps we expect them to behave a certain way so that we feel secure in the relationship. So what we are doing is reacting to what they have done because we are dependent on them to act a certain way to help regulate our insecurities. And when they screw up, all hell breaks loose because it feels like a much deeper injury.
The truth is, we all have flaws and there will be times that we mess up and hurt our partner, family, and friends. There will always be ways that my husband gets when he is really stressed out that I really don’t like. From time to time I will be “unpleasant” (<- his words) when I am too hot, like inside our house (I still have no idea why our bedroom is a sauna and the rest of the house is freezing) or outside hiking in the desert. But overall, when we look at everything that the other gets right, we both feel very blessed to have what we have.
When someone does something wrong, or hurts you, try to balance it with all the things they do right. Hopefully you can say that the positive outweighs the negative in your relationships. And remember, often times, people don’t intend to do things to hurt others or screw things up. Most times they are doing the best that they can.