Dear style & substance,

I seem to have a family that never says they are sorry, or if I say I am sorry for something, they like to hold a grudge and I don’t hear the end of it. I am looking for a new way to deal with grudges; clearly what I’ve been doing doesn’t make a difference.

We think this is more of a forgiveness issue than a grudge issue. Forgiveness is something that we have to learn and work on. Without practice and feedback, it will never become a part of anyone’s life.

If you want to move on from grudge-holding and non-forgiving relationships, then you may need to be the demonstrator. Being methodical and having a consistent strategy might make this seem more business like than is natural, however, to start this process off right, you need to understand the “grudge–holder”. Ask yourself some questions about that person; has he/she been hurt many times, taken advantage of or had trust broken?

You will need to come to him (or her) with some compassion, sincerity and some thoughtful understanding of the complexities in his/her life. Appeal to what he or she holds most important; it could be family, fairness, or consistency. If you are not sure, simply ask. At a peaceful time, discuss the situation that went unresolved because of poor, no, or unaccepted apologies. This conversation can change everything.

We believe there is no room for blame in forgiveness. There is room for accountability and for stepping up and in, but not blame. This subtle shift allows for healing and reconciliation. The other beautiful thing about not making a home for blame is that grudges move out too.

As the demonstrator, you can only respond for yourself;

“I am sorry that I didn’t consider your feelings when I made that decision.”

“What could we do to make it fair for all involved?”

“I was very hurt by your response to …, and I would like to talk about where I am coming from in this matter.”

Most importantly, no buts! Never apologize with a finger pointing at someone else. It is a good exercise to simply take responsibility for yourself and let another person come to their own sense of responsibility, through listening, respect and time. Allow for your words to be received with the understanding and consideration that they may respond in their own time.

We believe that one of the best gifts a parent can give a child is the ability to correct a mistake, through demonstration. So often we try to protect children from uncomfortable situations. Blaming others or naming situations as unfair is a disservice to the truth. Children who are not given the opportunity to own a mistake miss the opportunity to learn how to genuinely apologize and this is where the practice of forgiveness begins. Even if you were the beneficiary of this lesson as a child, forgiveness takes repeated practice.

You are feeling the long-term effects of unresolved situations or non- communicative relationships. When we don’t resolve conflicts, it affects our self-image, our attitudes, our thoughts, and our actions. There are some situations that are so hurtful and egregious that forgiveness may seem impossible, and rightly so. However, seeking some level of forgiveness will free you from letting an event or certain people in your life define you. Forgiveness does not mean that you continue in a relationship that is hurtful, forgiveness here means moving forward in your life without holding a longstanding hurt or grudge.

In the end, forgiveness is an act of freedom, for you and for others.

Sally Meisenheimer and Michele Armani are the owners of style & substance, which provides life coaching and creative solutions. Meisenheimer and Armani are certified life coaches, with many years of experience in health education, workforce development and teaching. Combined, they have been married more than 60 years and raised seven children. Email questions and comments to yourstyleandsubstance@gmail.com.