In this chapter we will explore our level of responsibility for our thoughts, actions and choices, and what to do if we truly feel that we have made a mistake. Two written promises are included to assist you and your partner in reaching a new level of honesty and passionate commitment to one another.
Tolerance of the ego-yours and theirs
Remember, we all have egos, so don’t judge another’s ego without judging your own. If you see someone’s ego in action and you judge it to be behaving badly, don’t forget that yours probably does the same. You may be saying silently to yourself: “But I’m not that bad!” True, perhaps, but remember that your ego is skillful at deceiving you. Your judging ego will usually try to make you believe that you are better than the other, more innocent than the other, and heap blame and judgment on the other. This is a normal activity of the ego-everyone’s ego. It has selective blindness, seeing only the other’s negative aspects, and it loves to portray itself as the victim.
A friend of mine was badly treated by some tenants in a rental apartment that she owned. Truly, she had tried to treat them well. She had allowed them to have several pets, paid their utilities when they were struggling financially, and let them pay the rent late.
Eventually they sneaked off and left her with unpaid debts amounting to hundreds of dollars. She felt justifiably angry and judged them harshly.
About a year later she was ready to sell the house and asked for my help with some last-minute superficial repairs. At this point she had in hand a signed contract with a buyer, but she was trying to avoid making the more expensive repairs that were needed before the sale without full disclosure. With my help, she looked at her own tactics with a clear and self-reflective eye. She then realized that she was trying to rip her prospective buyers off just as she had been ripped off by her delinquent renters. She found her ego arguing that this was not the same thing and that every seller does this. Her ego tried hard to justify her behavior, but she could see that this was just another instance of wanting the unfair advantage. This is how the ego works, and we have to be clear-eyed and self-reflective in order to catch it in action within ourselves.
Fortunately, my friend understood this, and she was able to examine her motives and intentions in a tolerant way. She withheld judgment of herself, but knew that she must also withhold judgment of her former tenants, difficult as this might be. This is because, in essence, we are all one; we cannot ourselves escape judgment if we judge others.
Taking responsibility for our choices
However, when we find that we have taken the unfair advantage over the other, it is not quite enough to merely admit it to ourselves and forget about it. In order to avoid guilty feelings that hang around our unconscious minds and make us judge or even hate ourselves, we must take additional steps that will minimize the chance that we will make the same mistake again.
In cases where we face the truth about a situation, and in spite of the ego’s attempts to defend itself, we realize that we have made a mistake and have caused some harm, we should make the following contract with ourselves.
Making reparations for our mistakes: my promise to myself
If I make a mistake and cause my loved one(s) harm, I solemnly promise to:
- Admit my mistake to myself and to any victims of my ego’s antics.
- Do what I can to make it right. I will make restitution when possible.
- Figure out what I can do to prevent it from happening again. I will determine the danger signs in this pattern of my behavior, and I will make a plan to avoid this behavior in the future.
Date: _____________ Signature: ___________________________________________
The first step means that I will tell the person the truth about the harm that I believe I have done with sincere regret, while acknowledging that I am by nature imperfect. I will be specific about my misdeed and why I believe it is wrong, and I will listen
to the viewpoint of my partner while trying not to be defensive. He may not see it the way I do, and he has the same right to his opinion as I do to mine.
The second step means that I will try to make amends by compensating him in some way for the harm that I have done. He may have a different viewpoint regarding compensation, and that should be respected.
The third step is the self-awareness part. Here I need to think about what led me to make the mistake in the first place. Is there a pattern to my behavior; and will I know if I am getting ready to make the same mistake again? Are there steps that I can take to avoid this mistake in the future? Is there something I can do instead?
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Maura McGovern Moore, LCSW is the author of:
|The Simple Guide to Lasting Love (2011)|