When was the last time someone came to you and said...
“I would rather not keep the agreement I made with you, but before I just do whatever works for me, I'm checking to see if it would upset you."
Rarely? Or maybe never? Not surprising. That’s because we have been conditioned to believe “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”
True…it is easier to get forgiveness. To be amazing people, we are expected to forgive those who make mistakes. We are also encouraged to forgive those who simply don’t know any better, assuming that they will learn a better way on their own. If we can wave our hand and simply let it go, forgiveness brings us peace and reduces the emotional burden we carry into the next day.
When I was a child, this theory would never have worked on my parents. They loved me completely and forgave me for my wrongdoings, but they also provided corrective consequences to enhance my learning process. I learned, as most children do, that to avoid consequences, it would be better to get permission before I simply acted on my own desire.
As an adult, I realize that I don’t need “permission” from another adult to make my own decisions. However, if I am in a relationship, and that relationship is built on agreements, I understand that if I don’t honor the agreements, I am not only hurting someone else, I am eroding trust and damaging the relationship.
Many agreements seem incidental, like it wouldn't really matter if they were broken. However, when you're on the short end, it’s much easier to see the problem. Do you know anyone who misses appointments or shows up late and impacts your schedule for the rest of the day? Has your partner ever promised to help with something around the house and then stayed at work instead? Has someone ever spent money on something extravagant and tried to charm their way out of your disappointment? Has a colleague ever been late on a deadline and put you in a position to let other people down as a result? And do you feel pressure to simply forgive them? Does that seem fair?
When someone fails to keep their word, they have placed the burden on you, but forgiveness is your choice. You can choose to forgive for your own peace of mind, or first, you might compassionately point out the inconvenience they have caused you, then request more notice next time. When someone makes the effort to reach out in advance and let you know when an agreement might not be kept, they are showing far more respect for your time and your trust, which makes it much easier to forgive without regret.
Putting the shoe in the other foot, how often do you get a little bit sloppy in keeping your agreements and expect other people to forgive you? It may happen more than you think. Do you have any idea how that might be impacting them or your relationship? By being more diligent about your agreements, realizing that someone else is counting on you, and then making the effort to communicate when you can’t follow through, you will start to see more opportunities to show respect to those you care about.
In general, agreements are not taken very seriously. This kind of thing happens in relationships all over the world, and people actually expect them to be broken. However, if you want a mature, respectful relationship that goes beyond the average standards, you have to be proactive, forthcoming, and honest. There is no way around that.
I was taught this approach decades ago and immediately saw the value. I do it every time, and people are often shocked by the courage and respect that I have shown. Imagine how nice it would be for someone to honor your feelings enough to discuss a change in advance...then do that for others and be the example.
Time to transcend! This blog series is intended to challenge you by reaching beyond the status quo. If you are feeling resistance, consider that your ego is coming forward and presenting you with an opportunity to grow. This is where the magic happens!