Forgiveness requires a sense that bad behavior is a sign of suffering rather than malice - Alain de Botton
In preparation for our upcoming VIVA Event Talk entitled 'Help I Behaved Badly in My Relationship, Now What?' I interviewed my fellow presenter Philippe Bartu. To illustrate the point of our talk, Philippe shared a story about a recent situation that had occurred between him and his wife, Cristina, where he felt that he had behaved badly.
It had started about six months earlier when he began to suspect that Cristina was suffering from Orthorexia. Orthorexia is a term used to refer to someone having an unhealthy obsession with healthy food. As Cristina became hyper-vigilant about the food she was eating, he became hyper-vigilant about monitoring her behavior and judging her choices. Once he saw what he was doing, he immediately backed off and apologized for doubting her judgment. He even joined Cristina in eating a healthier diet and exercising more frequently.
To me, I wouldn't categorize Philippe's behavior towards his wife as necessarily Bad. Misguided maybe, but not bad. I see this was an innocent misunderstanding, born out of love and concern for her wellbeing. He had momentarily forgotten that she had her own access to wisdom, and she was making choices that were right for her. So often in our relationships, we forget this simple fact, especially when we are concerned about a loved one.
I must confess that I initially had some reservations about the title 'Help I Behaved Badly in My Relationship, Now What?’ For one, as a 3 Principles Practitioner, I try not to get into judgments of right vs. wrong and good vs. bad. Secondly, if we are going to use the label of bad, we need to recognize that there's a continuum from small, 'my bad' on one end to "I F!@#$ Up BAD!" on the other end.
As much as I have hurt others and have been hurt myself, I know that it was never intentional. I don't believe that people get up in the morning and ask themselves, "What can I do to hurt someone today?" When we behave badly, it is usually born out of fear and hurt. We have momentarily forgotten who we are at our essence, which is pure love, peace, and joy. We get caught up in our personal thinking, and depending on our state-of-mind, our thinking, and our level of consciousness at the time, we respond accordingly.
We create stories in our heads then feel the effects of them. We forget that it's an inside out world and instead believe that others are the cause of our fear and our suffering. We innocently blame them for making us feel a certain way. In Philippe's case, he felt that his wife's behavior was causing him to feel anxious and concerned, so he felt justified in overstepping healthy boundaries and trying to control her food choices. When we see the psychological innocence within all human beings, it is easier to forgive the hurtful actions of ourselves and others. Remembering that we are all doing the best we can given our thinking in the moment.
However, there is a caveat. As I mentioned earlier, there are many levels of bad behavior one can engage in, from minor infractions to out and out abuse. As a Principles Practitioner specializing in the area of Codependency and Narcissistic Abuse, just because we see the psychological innocence in others, it doesn't mean we have to stay in unhealthy relationships. We have the right to determine how we want to live our lives, from a place of love and kindness or a place of fear, hurt, and anger. We have free will. It's our choice.
With love and appreciation, Del💕