Every single person I know has fucked up in some monumental way.
They have hurt others, destroyed opportunities, relationships or business transactions. Fueled by ego and selfish desire, people can do some of the most incredibly stupid things to fuck up their life or the lives of those around them in some of the most epic ways. And it is our ego and selfishness that get in the way of repairing the damage of those abhorrent life decisions. Accountability and ownership seems to be a vestigial behavior in today’s society. Somehow, we have taken an ugly approach to ownership and accountability. Either ignore it, bury it deep down inside, thus failing to address the problem and leaving that problem to be handled by someone or something else, or shift the blame and play the victim.
We lie to, cheat on, hurt and manipulate people in our lives in ways that best benefit us. Some people do it maliciously, some knowingly but lacking intent, and others, on a rare occasion, unwittingly. But when we realize we do harm to others, I’ve noticed that many people just ignore it as if it never happened and try to pretend as if nothing is wrong. The violator will also try to guilt trip the violated person for not wanting to be around the violator or not tolerating their shit behavior. There is a shifting of the blame to play the victim that occurs rather than simply taking ownership, the bruise to the ego and seeking forgiveness. Violators have a way of rationalizing their behavior so they are absolved of taking ownership. They say things like, “Well, I never meant to hurt you” or “It just happened” or “You were pissing me off so I did it” or “It’s not my responsibility” or “I tried (when there is no indication of an ounce of effort)”. Whatever the excuse is, understand it is simply a rationalization used to keep from doing the right thing and taking accountability.
Everyone is worthy of forgiveness and grace.
One thing I’ve learned in my journey of recovery over the past couple years, is everyone is worthy of forgiveness and grace, no matter how egregious the violation. But that is a pill the forgiver must swallow. If the person doing the forgiving is willing to forgive and accept amends, then it is their choice and they need to lead the dance that leads back to a healthy relationship, whatever that may be. But it is equally important and incumbent on the violator to seek forgiveness and make amends when they realize they did something wrong. This applies to business, friendships, family and intimate relationships as well. (From here on out, when I say “relationship” I mean the dictionary definition- “the way in which two or more concepts, objects or people are connected, or the state of being connected.” It is up to your interpretation of this article where it applies in your life).
I’ll admit, I’ve done some horrible things to people in my life. I have hurt people in my life who I genuinely love and care about. I could easily shift the blame, play the victim, rationalize or flat out ignore the things I’ve done. But I wouldn’t be living by the principles on which I have as my life’s foundation. Judgement, Justice, Decisiveness, Integrity, Dependability, Tact, Initiative, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty and Endurance are the fourteen points by which I base my life’s decisions and how I interact with the world. These 14 principles are the subject of my book, “The Hard 14,” will be coming out next year. The point is, if I fail to take ownership of my actions, I am not living up to any of those principles and I’m failing as a man, lover, father, friend, coach or business owner. It’s only by taking accountability and ownership of my shit behaviors that I can live more fully, but I can have the most fulfilling relationships in and around my life. Healthy and honest relationships, both serve me and whoever and whatever I’m interacting with. Failing to do so will make me the toxic component in every relationship and by maintaining a state of ignorance to my shit behavior, I’ll simply continue to repeat the cycle of selfish, destructive, toxic, manipulative and harmful actions that continue to hurt people who I love.
While I was in rehab in 2018, I got to participate in going through the 12 Step process that is normally synonymous with Alcoholics Anonymous. Though I was not at rehab for a substance abuse issue rather I was there for crippling PTSD, depression and anxiety, I still found value in going through the steps. I simply switched the word “alcoholism or addiction” for the words “my darkness or behavior.” It’s a simple switch of the words that then makes the 12 Step process applicable to a non-addict like myself who is still in need of recovery. The 12 Steps include acknowledging that my behavior was unmanageable and had ruined factors of my life. I acknowledge that I was powerless over my depression and darkness and that I needed help. I took an inventory of all the things in my life that my behavior, as a result of my darkness, had ruined and destroyed. This includes relationships, careers, and opportunities etc. Once I took my fearless inventory, I admitted those wrongdoings to my sponsor. My sponsor in my second go around of the 12 Steps is a very dear friend and someone I love and care about tremendously. His love and compassion during my second round of the steps was exactly what I needed to realize that I was monumentally fucking up my life and needed to get back on track. That admission of my wrongdoings to my sponsor meant there was someone to hold me accountable and make sure I didn’t take any shortcuts. I had to reach out to those who I hurt and seek forgiveness and make amends.
Now here is where we need to break some shit down…
I reached out to those that I hurt. I went to them and said, “(name), I need to genuinely apologize to you. I did X to you , and I know it hurt you. It was because of my (insert whatever character defect applies. Resentment, Fear, Self Pity, Self Justification, Self Importance, Guilt, Dishonesty, Impatience, False Pride, Denial, Jealousy, Envy, Laziness, Procrastination, Insincerity, Negative Thinking, Perfectionism, Criticism, Gossip or Greed)that I did X action. I take full responsibility for my actions and ask for your forgiveness. I also want to make amends to you for hurting you the way I did. I want to make amends to you by (insert potential solution).” Every single person I contacted and said this to was open and receptive. Only one was still angry, bitter and resentful. That was their decision. I have offered my apologies and willingness to make amends. The choice to open their heart to accept them is their responsibility. But the fact is, I still took accountability for my actions and asked for their forgiveness.
And though at times, my lack of self confidence tells me I’m not worthy of forgiveness, I know logically that I am. Though the memory of doing these bad things to people I care about haunt me, I know they don’t define who I am as a man. I know that I’m a good man and I have made positive changes. I know that I am worthy of love and respect. I know that I’m worthy of forgiveness, grace, compassion and understanding. I know I’m worthy of all these things because I know I’m willing to swallow my pride and tell those that I’ve wronged, “Hey, I fucked up! And I sincerely apologize for making you feel (insert perceived emotion). I’m sorry and I want to make amends to you for the damage I’ve caused.”
Why am I worthy of forgiveness and grace? Why are you worthy of forgiveness and grace?
Because, as Dr. Jordan Peterson is attributed as saying, “You are not required to be the same man you were 5 minutes ago…” You have the capability of changing your behavior at any moment. You can change your course of action at any moment and be better than you have been. You have every opportunity to right your wrongs and do the right thing. It will require you to do the hard things, undertake some difficult tasks and to make that change. Then it takes a fearless inventory of yourself and actions to figure out what character defects listed above drove your decision. Then seek out those you hurt and fucking own it! Tell them you fucked up. Tell them how you feel about it. Tell them you respect them and you respect their hurt, distrust, anger or sadness. Ask for forgiveness and seek to make amends. If they choose to forgive you and accept your amends, then you need to do the even harder task… DON’T DO THAT THING YOU DID TO HURT THEM EVER FUCKING AGAIN! Be a better human! Be the person that uses Judgement, Justice, Decisiveness, Integrity, Dependability, Tact, Initiative, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty and Endurance as the foundation of your life and how you interact with the world. Quit being a selfish, self centered knob! If the person you hurt is willing to forgive you and accept your amends, it means they see the greatness in you that you are not exhibiting in this moment. Don’t do the things to prove them wrong! Live up to that greatness! Just remember, in the blink of an eye, everything can change. So forgive often and love fully and love hard. You never know when you may not have that chance again and you don’t know if your act of grace is the one thing that person needed to feel loved enough to give them the courage to be a better person.