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2. Forgiveness and Friendship

2. Forgiveness and Friendship
thumbs-up-with-smiley-facesm  happiness-habits

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”

Groucho Marx

Forgiveness and Friendship
by Vicki Nunn

Fostering Forgiveness

As you can imagine, holding onto grudges and focussing on how another has treated us unfairly, affects our mental and emotional health. But scarily, it can also affect our physical health as well, because of stress, lack of sleep etc.

One way to overcome the negative effects is to foster forgiveness. This goes against the grain of human nature because we want the whole world to know how badly we were treated or how awful another person has been to us. Somehow it seems unfair that the other person should be allowed to ‘get away with it.’

Holding onto grudges and anger simply increases our bitterness and hurt and oftentimes, the other person remains completely oblivious to what they did wrong. Therefore, no matter how much anger and bitterness we hold onto, that other person usually gets away scot-free anyway, and the only person that is affected badly, is us.

If we understand and accept that, then we should hopefully be able to move to the next step and try to forgive that other person. This will allow us at last, to let go of the bitterness and anger which after all, is only harming us. But how do we do that?

hands-4-holdingsmHow Do We Forgive?

There are several things that we can try:

  1. Painful though it may be, try to recall the incidence which led to the hurt and attempt to understand what happened from the other person’s point of view, eg:

– could we have been mistaken in the identity of the culprit?
– could the other person’s actions have stemmed from something other than nastiness?
– could what the person said or did have merely been accidental or just the result of a poor attempt at communication or a joke?

  1. Ponder a time in our own life when we hurt someone and were forgiven. Consider how it made us feel to be forgiven and how it set things right between us and the other person. By offering forgiveness, the other person took the sting and the hurt out of the situation, and we could do the same.
  2. Write about forgiving the person who hurt us. We can do this in our gratitude journal (which we spoke of in the previous issue of SPAG). We can also write a letter to the offender (which we won’t send). Writing about it can help us put the incident and our feelings into perspective and clarify the situation in our own mind. It may help us determine what we could have done to possibly change things.
  3. The last step is to consciously make a choice to hold onto the forgiveness and to let go of our anger and hurt and especially the desire for revenge. Whenever negative feelings arise, talk ourselves through it:

“Those horrible feelings have come up again. They make me feel bad and are not helpful to me. If I hold onto them, they won’t affect the person who hurt me, but my pain will continue. I can let those feelings go and forgive that other person. Even if they don’t deserve my forgiveness, I deserve to feel better about this. I deserve to feel happy.”

Fostering Friendship

One of the best remedies for improving our happiness, is to form one or two close friendships with some positive people. While electronically our connection with family and friends is increasing, the quality of our friendships and relationships seems to be suffering, and depression and loneliness is on the rise.

Good friends can reduce our stress levels, increase our confidence, and improve our happiness.

We need trustworthy friends with whom we can share our innermost feelings and thoughts; and friends that can make us laugh.

hands-holding3smFinding Friends:

For some of us, finding friends can be difficult and we may need counselling to help us overcome problems or fears from the past or to help us improve our social and other skills so that we can interact better with other people.

Perhaps we have difficulty finding friends because we have cocooned ourselves in a safe environment where we never have the chance to meet anyone new, whether out of fear or laziness. We need to be willing to have a clear look at our environment and our activities to determine if we are deliberately hiding out and to determine if we can find better avenues for finding worthwhile friends.

Conclusion

Forgiveness can be scary because it means we have to be able to let go of something or someone that has hurt us, and somehow it doesn’t seem right that while we’re still hurting, nobody has been made to pay for the wrong-doing. But we must practice forgiveness so that we can move on if we are to heal and if we are to gain happiness.

Friendship is a good way to gain a healthier and happier perspective on life. Friends can help us to forgive, to let go, and to move on. Friends can make life worthwhile. [End]

Why Do I have Trouble Making Friends?

Why Do I have Trouble Making Friends?

Why Do I have Trouble Making Friends?Woman alone in field at sunsetSM

by Vicki Nunn

(Extracted from Issue One: June 2015)

 

Why do I have trouble making friends? This is a complex issue and the answer depends on a number of factors:

  1. You may be shy;
  2. You may lack confidence;
  3. You may lack social skills; or
  4. All of the above

Just because you’re shy or lack confidence or social skills right now, doesn’t mean that you’re stuck that way forever, but it does mean you need to face up to a hard truth:

you need to change

because the world is not going to change to accommodate you. That’s a tough truth you need to accept.

Being willing to admit you need to change, can be difficult for some people and they throw themselves into work, volunteering or hiding out and keep themselves so busy that they fool themselves into believing that they simply don’t have the time to make friends. Or if they do pluck up the courage to attend social functions, they either leave early or hide if they can, eg if they’re at a party they may spend most of their time in the kitchen or go where there’s likely to be as few people as possible, eg on the patio.

Eyes worriedSMI don’t wish to make light of the situation, because I know from personal experience, that for some people, social anxiety can be quite crippling and can overwhelm a person’s desire to socialise. As a young adult, I would become physically ill for hours before going out on a date, then I’d spend most of the evening desperately wishing that I didn’t feel so uncomfortable and feeling like a complete idiot. For days afterwards I would relentlessly pick fault with every little thing I did that I thought was wrong.

After several unsuccessful dates, I began to unconsciously sabotage any potential relationships. As soon as it looked like a boy wanted to get closer to me, I’d unconsciously convince myself that things wouldn’t work out, and I’d simply turn my attention to another young man and begin the cycle again.

My early relationships then were extremely superficial and as a result, my emotional development faltered while my social anxiety remained.

Those of us who suffer this anxiety know how easy it is to find fault with our own actions when in social situations. We often become quite adept at critiquing our performance afterwards and seeing poor quality interactions where in reality, often there were none or very little. We trust the hypercritical voice in our heads that tells us we are worthless and that our failings simply proved it.

We assume that people are being critical of our words and actions, which isn’t true. The majority of people we meet, have no interest in judging us and are genuinely interested in what we have to say. I wish someone at the time had told me that the voice in my head was the idiot! I wish they’d told me that I had the right turn its volume down so that I didn’t have to listen to it or believe it anymore and that I could tell it to ‘Get lost!’

Overcoming Fear and Shyness

There are several things that you may like to try, to help overcome your social difficulties:

1.Practice deep breathing:

Eyes closed middle-agedSMTherapists suggest that daily practice can help you in social situations, because when anxiety threatens to overwhelm you, you can automatically go into your deep breathing technique without anyone else being aware of it, and it will still allow you to focus on the ongoing conversation as you regain control of your stress levels.

2.Set some achievable goals before you attend an outing:

Remind yourself that you have no control over sweating, blushing and feeling anxious, but instead you can focus on goals for the event which you can control, eg greet three strangers at a party; put forward an idea or make a specific comment at a workplace meeting; or say ‘no’ when someone asks you to help out.

Try to avoid thinking about other people’s response to your actions, because you have no control over how people will react. Instead afterwards, congratulate yourself for your achievement and remind yourself that you were brave enough to interact.

Read a good self-help book and make your mind up to follow the advice, no matter how scary it may seem. Perhaps you could join an online website that offers help. If you feel unsure about what book to read or which website to go to, then consider seeing a therapist in person. They can often put things in perspective and give helpful suggestions.

3.Self-talk in a positive, realistic way

Man 20s stressedSMAs mentioned earlier, our own inner voice can often be ridiculously critical, so counteract it with positive and realistic dialogue. An example of this could be when having to speak in public. Your hyper-critical voice will tell you how terrible you’ll be. Instead of listening to it, ensure that you’re well prepared, then remind yourself that you’ve spoken in public before and survived, and since you’re well prepared this time, you’ll do your best, and that’s all anybody can ask or expect.

In social settings if you want to talk to someone or ask them out on a date, consider what is the worst possible outcome and prepare yourself for that. Remind yourself that they may even surprise you and say ‘Yes.’

When you feel the anxiety rise, your heart pound and you begin to sweat, remind yourself, “Yes, I am feeling anxious, but it will eventually pass.”

4.Create an exposure ladder

An exposure ladder is a list of social situations that make you feel very anxious or exposed. Write down a list of ten in order of difficulty and rate them out of a 100 with zero being no stress at all and one hundred being the most extreme anxiety. Challenge yourself to perform the least difficult of the tasks and work your way up the ladder to the most difficult. Set yourself a goal to complete the list in a set period of time, eg six months ( no longer than one year) and reward yourself with something special when the list has been completed.

Group of friends1SMImproving Social Interactions

You may have heard of the phrases ‘an open-ended question,’ or ‘a closed question.’ If you want to improve your speaking skills with others, then you must train yourself to use open-ended questions. ·

  • open-ended question: is one which usually can’t be answered with a simple yes or no but requires the other person to provide a more detailed response; ·
  • closed question: is one that requires only a simple yes or no response.

An example of an open ended question is, “What do you like most about your work?” An example of a closed question is, “Did you have a nice day at work today?”

If you would like to develop a friendship or a romantic relationship with someone and you know that you’ll meet up with them at another function in the near future, try to find out a little about their workplace or their hobbies. Then before the next meeting, obtain some information related to their work or hobbies from your local library or look up details on the internet. That way you can be prepared with questions before you go. This will show the other person that you know a little about what matters to them, and may provide a platform upon which you share a common interest.

Being prepared will make it easier for you to communicate with them, and help you to feel more in control.

Eye Man's B&W1 Coping with Nasty Comments

The fear of rejection and negative comments can often discourage us in our social interactions. If you do come across nasty people who make fun of you, then you can use a wonderful ‘power phrase’ which I learned a few years ago:

“Did you mean to make me feel …”

If somebody makes fun of you, you can respond with:

“Did you mean to make me feel …… when you said that?”

and add in the appropriate reaction or emotion you felt such as:

“Did you mean to make me feel uncomfortable when you said that?”

It puts the other person in their place without you having to resort to being nasty or negative in response and makes you look like the bigger person in the situation.

If they reply with “No,” then it will appear to be almost an admission of guilt or childishness on their part. Sometimes it will force the other person to apologise or at the very least, encourage them to back off.

On rare occasions the other person may say, “Yes,” to your power phrase, which will just make them look like a bit of a goose in front of everyone.

On even rarer occasions, you may occasionally interact with some who chooses to continue with their nastiness, in which case you can respond calmly with: “Since you’re choosing to be nasty, I’m choosing to walk away from you.”  Then physically remove yourself from that situation and join another group. Try to ignore them after that.

You may even stumble across some moron who insists on following you and trying to belittle you even after you’ve responded appropriately. Remind yourself that if you react to them, you are giving them all of the power in the silly little game they are playing. Don’t play their dumb game. They’ve played it enough to be good at it. Say nothing more as you walk away and join another group of people. In fact, the best thing to do is not to react to them at all.

Bullies don’t know what to do when people don’t behave like they are supposed to. Remember, you have nothing to prove to that other person. Their behaviour is a clear indication that they’re a contemptible human being and unworthy of your time or emotions.

Remind yourself that there are people who will value your friendship, so focus your  efforts on them, and don’t allow the bullies or the idiots to ruin your day or your belief in yourself.

Woman triumphant at sunsetSMConclusion

It’s amazing how God can grow us and stretch us. From my early beginnings of feeling extremely socially awkward and lacking in confidence, I grew to a point where eventually I became a leader of a Kid’s Club and Sunday School, coordinated a Christian singles group, sang in front of a church and shared a sermon with a congregation. In addition I became a volunteer radio presenter on Christian radio for more than ten years. That’s more than 2,000 hours talking to complete strangers on the air!

I didn’t start out with the confidence to do those things, let alone naturally have those skills. That was a result of God working slowly in me, because I was willing to overcome my fears and to grow and change.

May I encourage you to pray about your development. Ask God to help you to become a stronger person: tell Him about your fears and struggles; and scary though it may seem, be willing to change and grow.

© Vicki Nunn, SPAG Magazine

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