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You can be right.
Or you can be in relationship.

April 25, 2022

Dear Lisa,


It's the principle of the thing that gets me.  I feel like if I let go of this hurt that was done to me --- this wrong -- if my sister gets away with what she did that I won't be true to myself.  How do I make her see her need for change and apology so that we can be together again?  Our rift has divided the family. 


Sincerely - 

Wronged and Wanting "us" back


Dear Wronged,


I learned one thing in Mrs. Brown's 5th Grade Social Studies class that has stayed with me always:  life is not fair.  


And then there was another thing that I added when struggling with how to address faith issues and what I viewed as major differences in belief -- Norman Vincent Peale's statement, "I'm in sales, not management."  


These two ideas come to mind with your question.  So many families have this story, because where deep love exists the potential for deep hurts is greater in us.  We develop expectations, we count on each other and when we feel the other has wronged us, it's hard to move forward without a good "I'm sorry."  


And that may never happen.  


Years ago, I developed a phrase that I've landed on often in such times... 

"You can be right or you can be in relationship."  


It seems to me that it's hard to concentrate on both.  I'm not talking about sacrificing who you are or your core values --- but letting go of our need for others to say "you were right" and to focus instead on the thing we want most, which is relationship. 


We don't have to say all of our words.  And if the words are not helpful to the relationship, what IS the point in saying our words?  


We have to decide what we want most --- to be right or to be in relationship.  Ben Franklin chose to be right in his position on America (a Royalist turned Patriot) rather than focus on repair of his relationship with his son William, who remained a Royalist.  For him, that was the decision of a lifetime and history says that was a good call.  But it was a big call.  A lot of times we see relationships torn with much less at stake. 


Is being right something that is of such import that the relationship should be sacrificed for this point?  Or is the relationship more important?


This sounds like the decision in front of you: focusing on the rightness of your position or on the strengthening of your relationship.  


Changing your sister is not on the table --- not in our power.  You can pray, hope, believe, meditate, offer, gift, expose, read or encourage reading...but you cannot change your sister.  And if she has the same view that your position is wrong, that she has been wronged, then you are at a real stalemate. 


So often, I have bitten my tongue (family and friends may find that less than credible) --- but really, when I think about a past hurt and 'knowing I'm right," when I am triggered by something that happens and want to "set the record straight and get that apology once and for all" -- I think about this. 


How likely is it that my point will win the day?  Bring a smile?  Improve us?  


And if the answer is "not very" then I try to focus on what I DO want --- that better relationship.  


I love the way our dogs repair relationships with Dave and me.  Even when they are not sure that they were responsible for the misdeed, even when they are wrongly accused, they stay firmly fixed on keeping the relationship.  Above all, our dogs want to be with us, to forgive us, to move on.  Our dogs beautifully exemplify that they would much rather be in relationship than be right about that bone of contention.  


So we can be right or we can be in relationship.   We have the option of laying down the baton of "I was right" and moving on.  

As Norman Vincent Peale put it, "We're in sales, not management."   We're not in charge of anyone else's learning other than our own.  And at the end of the day, if we act with the sincerety and pure heartedness of our beloved pets, we'll find what we seek as most important. 


I can't answer your question -- only you can do that.  Here are my thoughts and I'm still learning... and listening. 

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